A new three-in-one laboratory test for Zika and a pair of other dangerous viruses has received emergency approval from the Food and Drug Administration and will be distributed soon, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The test, which could speed the diagnosis of Zika, will be shipped to qualified labs across the country over the next two weeks, the agency said Friday.
The test will allow doctors to determine in a single test whether an individual is currently infected with Zika, chikungunya or dengue. Currently, three tests are required.
The CDC said it will distribute the test to facilities in the Laboratory Response Network, a network of domestic and international laboratories that respond to public health emergencies. The test, called the Trioplex Real-time RT-PCR Assay, will not be available in hospitals or other primary care settings.
The Zika virus, which is transmitted primarily by mosquitoes, has been spreading rapidly throughout the Americas. In most cases, it causes only mild symptoms at worst. But pregnant women are vulnerable because the virus is strongly suspected of causing birth defects, including microcephaly, which is characterized by an abnormally small head and brain damage.
According to the CDC’s latest tally, at least 258 Americans have contracted Zika while traveling abroad. Eighteen of those cases have been diagnosed in pregnant women.