NJ now conducting its own blood tests for Zika virus
New Jersey is one of just a few states with the capacity to test residents' blood samples for the mosquito-borne Zika virus .
According to an announcement from the New Jersey Department of Health, laboratories located in West Trenton began testing blood samples late last week for Zika and other mosquito-transmitted viruses.
"For New Jersey residents, it means quicker turnaround on lab results," acting Health Commissioner Cathleen Bennett told New Jersey 101.5.
Bennett noted in-state testing would also enhance New Jersey's preparedness and response to the evolving health emergency currently unfolding in the Caribbean and Central and South Americas.
Testing in the state is underway for pregnant women who have traveled overseas, along with recently-traveled men whose partners are thinking about becoming pregnant and anyone who's traveled overseas and is experiencing symptoms of the Zika virus.
Most people infected with Zika won't know they have the disease because they won't show symptoms, but the most common symptoms include fever, rash, joint pain or conjunctivitis, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The illness is usually mild and it's rarely fatal.
Zika is mainly a concern for pregnant women, given its confirmed link to a serious birth defect of the brain known as microcephaly.
The latest CDC update points to 157 pregnant women in the U.S. with evidence of a possible Zika virus infection. But it's not yet known how likely it is for a pregnant woman to pass the virus to her fetus, and it can't be guaranteed that an infected fetus will develop birth defects.
"A pregnant woman can test positive for Zika and have a perfectly healthy infant," a state health department spokesperson said.
All 544 Zika cases in the country, including 16 in New Jersey, are related to travel. There have been no locally-acquired cases reported, according to the CDC.
"We do not expect to see transmission here in New Jersey," Bennett said of the upcoming warmer months. "If perchance it did occur, we expect it only to be localized."
Bennett could not say whether any of New Jersey's cases involved pregnant women.
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