Delays In Florida Zika Testing Raise Anxiety For Pregnant Women : Shots - Health News Pregnant women in South Florida can get free Zika tests through the state's health department. But delays in getting back the results are heightening worries and may affect medical options.
NPR logo

Reporter's Notebook: Pregnant And Caught In Zika Test Limbo

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Reporter's Notebook: Pregnant And Caught In Zika Test Limbo

Reporter's Notebook: Pregnant And Caught In Zika Test Limbo

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


Let's hear the way that one pregnant woman is handling South Florida's Zika outbreak. Sammy Mack first talked with us in August.


RENEE MONTAGNE, BYLINE: Have you been bitten by a mosquito?

SAMMY MACK, BYLINE: Yeah. I have a mosquito bite on my right ankle right now. It is a little menace on my ankle, and I'm trying not to think too much about it.

INSKEEP: Sammy Mack is a health reporter for our station WLRN. And today, she's still working, as authorities have declared one part but not all of Miami-Dade County clear of Zika.

MACK: I'm still wearing my long sleeves, and I'm still covering head to toe in bug spray. And I'm still being really careful about where I am outside.

INSKEEP: How many months pregnant are you now?

MACK: I'm a little over four months pregnant.

INSKEEP: OK. Congratulations.

MACK: Thank you.

INSKEEP: I'm wondering if, when you meet someone in this circumstance with all the news about pregnant women in your area, does somebody give you a long second look?

MACK: It has happened, yes. And I have had people ask me how I'm doing followed by, how are you doing with Zika? You know, that's kind of the second follow-up to it.

INSKEEP: When you spoke with Renee Montagne on the program in August, you said that you'd just had a Zika test.

MACK: I did. So I am one of hundreds of women in Miami-Dade County who waited a long time to get our results back. I actually just found out over the weekend after...

INSKEEP: What's the news - what you just found out?

MACK: Oh, OK. I found out that my tests were negative.

INSKEEP: Good. Negative is good.

MACK: Right. I did not have exposure to Zika based on these tests.

INSKEEP: Why did it take so long for people to get their results back?

MACK: When I initially took the test, I had been told it would take about seven to 10 business days. But eventually, I started talking to other pregnant women and to providers who were saying - yeah, it could take four weeks, six weeks, even potentially more. And so I called the health department and finally I got somebody who told me that my test had been completed and it was sitting in a lab in Jacksonville, Fla.

INSKEEP: Oh, my goodness. And so there may very well be hundreds of other women who are waiting and suffering...

MACK: Yeah.

INSKEEP: ...Through all the disorganization here perhaps. What is the Florida Department of Health saying to you about these delays and what, if anything, they're doing about them?

MACK: I asked them very specifically what the holdup was. And the representatives from the communications office wrote back and just said that they're working on it. And they pointed to the CDC testing for - initial tests that come back positive or inconclusive can take an extra while. Since we and other media outlets started reporting on this, the governor's office did announce that the CDC is sending seven additional people to help out in the labs.

INSKEEP: Would you explain why the timing is so important to so many women?

MACK: Well, I spoke with, actually, one of the doctors who treats women who are Zika-positive during pregnancy. What she pointed out is that Florida restricts abortion after 24 weeks. So if somebody decides to terminate a pregnancy because they have one of these outcomes, that certainly limits their window.

The other thing she pointed out is that if a woman is still waiting on her test results and gives birth, then the doctors have to look at that child as potentially having been exposed to Zika. And that can mean, potentially, doing a ton of extra blood tests, maybe even a spinal tap. And so she and other doctors say it's a really good thing that this test has been made available to all pregnant women in Florida, but there are consequences if those results don't come in in a timely way.

INSKEEP: Well, Sammy Mack, hang in there.

MACK: Thank you. I will.

Copyright © 2016 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Shots - Health News


Health News From NPR