With rising concerns over the risk of the infamous Zika virus making its way into the United States, The New York Times reports that New York State will now offer free Zika testing to pregnant travelers.
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo recently announced that New York will be the first state in the nation to offer free testing regardless of whether or not patients show symptoms.
As New York City labs rush to develop the means to perform the tests, the program is expected to increase the number of blood tests in the state substantially enough to raise worry over capacity.
As of now, medical facilities around the city are being told that the current wait time for test results is anywhere between two and four weeks. Even now, NYU Langone Medical Center has yet to return nearly all of the 15 tests they’ve received over the past several weeks.
“Capacity is one of the challenges,” explained Dr. Jay Varma, New York City health department’s deputy commissioner for disease control. “Nobody ever planned for having capacity testing for the Zika virus, as it was considered relatively benign before this current outbreak.”
Due to the stalled test results and also because those infected often don’t show symptoms, it remains unknown just how many New Yorkers have been infected.
As a result, there has been some debate among medical providers over who should be tested.
In an attempt to cover all the bases, urgent care clinics which see around 3,500 patients every day and are testing anyone who may be showing symptoms or has a history of traveling to countries linked to the virus.
Urgent care facilities will likely be able to see the most patients because, unlike the mere 29% of primary doctors who have after-hours coverage, they typically offer extended hours of operation.
Currently, there is a total of 11 confirmed infections reported in the state, three of which were in New York City.
According to the New York Post, one of these three confirmed cases is a pregnant woman, the most concerning cases considering that Zika causes microcephaly in babies.
After urging travelers to be cautious if going to high risk areas, New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett stated, “We can expect more cases because Zika is a widespread infection in many places that people commonly travel.”
“This might be a good winter to think about a vacation in the Catskills,” she continued.