Zika testing skyrockets in May, athenahealth data show

Though physicians ordered as many Zika tests in May as they did during last year’s outbreak, whether that means hospitals will see more infected patients remains to be seen.
By Tom Sullivan
04:13 PM
Zika testing skyrockets

Zika testing rose this month to levels not seen since last August, according to EHR vendor athenahealth. 

But the sharp increase in testing does not necessarily bode ominously for Zika infections to return. Even still, doctors, medical practices and hospital administrators will want to be aware of nationwide trends pertaining to the virus.

After an average 235 tests during the first part of 2017 nationally, that number shot up to 322 per week, athenahealth said. That was as of May 12, the last date for which the vendor said it had data.

Florida, of course, has its own scenario and since there were 4 confirmed infections there last year, the state’s medical practices ordered 87 tests per week during the first part of 2017 and then 116 each week after that.

There are reasons that testing spiked and it’s not — at least as of now — a direct correlation in increased patients infected with Zika.  

For starters, athenainsight noted that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in early May upped its recommendations by saying that all pregnant women who potentially were exposed be administered two different tests for the virus. CDC also expanded its guidance to all women who have either traveled to or live in areas where Zika infections occurred be tested.

That second round of updates followed one CDC made last year suggesting that all pregnant women might become pregnant and have visited geographical locations in which Zika is active should be tested.
 Athenahealth determined these findings by analyzing the 13,262 tests ordered by 2,900 doctors who participate in its athenaNet physician network. 

The CDC reported that between Jan. 1, 2017 and May 24, 2017, 121 Zika symptomatic cases were reported on U.S. mainland soil. Almost all of those involved citizens traveling to affected areas, while U.S. territories such as Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands and American Samoa saw 498 Zika-symptomatic patients.

Twitter: SullyHIT
Email the writer: tom.sullivan@himssmedia.com

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