Children's Hospital Colorado

Zika Virus

Zika virus is a flavivirus, which is the same family as Dengue Fever and West Nile Virus. The current outbreak started in Brazil in early 2015 and has led to an ongoing epidemic throughout the Americas.

The virus spreads to humans primarily through bites from infected Aedes mosquitoes, but there are also several reports of sexual transmission.

Many questions arise when these types of situations occur. If you are concerned that you may have contracted Zika virus, please speak with your primary OB/GYN provider first and they may refer you to one of our clinics if needed.

You can also learn more by reading our downloadable brochure on Zika virus for patients (.pdf). If you are a provider, we encourage you to check out our Zika virus information for providers (.pdf) to learn more about available testing options, specifics about screenings, the algorithm that has been established by the Colorado Fetal Care Center and more.

To learn more about Zika, see resources from the Centers for Disease Control for updates for both patients and providers.

Signs and symptoms of Zika virus

Symptoms of the disease are non-specific but may include:

  • Fever
  • Rash
  • Aching joints
  • Red eyes

Only 1 of 5 infected persons has symptoms, however, so many people have been infected without realizing it. The illness does not seem to be dangerous outside of pregnancy.

Zika infection during pregnancy has been associated with birth defects, specifically significant microcephaly (small head size).

However, there are many things about Zika infection during pregnancy that we don’t know yet. This includes:

  • How many pregnant women get the Zika infection in areas where the virus is actively being spread by mosquitoes?
  • What is the rate of vertical transmission (from mother to baby) if the mother does become infected?
  • How many infected fetuses show complications, such as microcephaly, growth restriction or stillbirth?

Because we don't yet have this important information, patient counseling and decision-making if a woman might have been exposed to Zika virus (i.e., due to travel to endemic areas) is difficult.

Currently, there is no vaccine or treatment for Zika virus.

What are the testing options for Zika virus?

There are blood tests to find out if you have been infected in the last 12 weeks. These tests must be sent out to the CDC and will likely take several weeks to get results.

Ultrasound scans can be used to look for microcephaly and other findings that may be associated with fetal Zika infection.

Should I get a blood test, ultrasound or both?

Current recommendations include ultrasound testing for any women who had traveled to a Zika-affected area during her pregnancy, regardless of symptoms or blood test results. Blood testing is recommended if your travel has been within the last 12 weeks.

Do I need a referral to get tested?

The blood tests are sent to the CDC with detailed paperwork and require a visit with a provider in order to make sure testing is indicated and that everything is completed correctly. Your obstetrical provider may be able to draw this blood work for you or may refer you to a maternal fetal medicine specialist for evaluation.

Should my husband/significant other be tested?

Anyone, men or women, who notices symptoms within two weeks of travel to an affected area can be tested. Additionally, pregnant women with a travel history within 12 weeks should be tested whether or not they have symptoms.

Not everyone needs to be tested (i.e., men without a pregnant partner or non-pregnant women) since the illness is typically mild and self-limited with minimal effects outside of pregnancy.

How much does the testing cost? Is it covered by most insurance plans?

Information from the state lab suggests that costs for blood testing may range from $45 to $305. Costs associated with ultrasound tests will vary based on how many are done during your pregnancy. We hope that these costs will be covered at least in part by insurance companies, just as testing for other possible exposures during pregnancy would be covered.

Is the Colorado Fetal Care Center currently offering testing?

We are offering testing through our maternal fetal medicine clinics in the community. We also support our referring providers with resources and information if they chose to do this testing in their clinics.

Patients may be referred to the Colorado Fetal Care Center if there are positive results on either blood or ultrasound testing.

Who should I call and where should I go?

Call your primary obstetrical providers office for advice/evaluation. If they recommend a maternal fetal medicine evaluation, we would be happy to see you at a location most convenient for you:

University of Colorado Hospital 
Anschutz Outpatient Pavilion MFM Clinic
1635 Aurora Ct., Third Floor
Aurora, CO 80045
p: 720-848-1060

Littleton Perinatal Center
7720 S. Broadway, #190
Littleton, CO 80122
p: 303-315-6100 - Press Option 3

Lone Tree Health Center
9548 Park Meadows Dr.
Lone Tree, CO 80124
p: 720-848-2200

Parker Perinatal Center
Alpine Medical Building
9397 Crown Crest Blvd., Suite 401
Parker, CO 80138
p: 303-315-6100 - Press Option 2

Platte River Perinatal Center
1772 Platte St.
Denver, CO 80202
p: 303-315-6100 - Press Option 1

Boulder Foothills MFM
4747 Arapahoe Ave
Boulder, CO 

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