Doctors in the U.S. should proactively screen at-risk pregnant women for the Zika virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “All pregnant women in the United States and U.S. territories should be assessed for possible Zika virus exposure at each prenatal care visit,” reads a new memo the CDC released on Monday.
That’s the most aggressive recommendation yet to come from the CDC in the past several months of mounting preparation for Zika’s landfall in the continental U.S. It doesn’t mean that doctors must test all pregnant patients for Zika, but that they should discuss risk factors—travel to a Zika-afflicted area, a symptomatic partner—to determine the need for further testing.
The new guidelines also broaden the population of patients for whom testing is recommended. It used to be that a pregnant patient or her sexual partner had to travel to an area in the current Zika danger zones and develop symptoms before the CDC would unequivocally recommend testing. Now, in part because about 80 percent of Zika-infected people don’t end up showing symptoms of the virus, the CDC also recommends testing some asymptomatic pregnant women, too. If a patient might have been exposed to Zika through travel or a traveling sexual partner, the CDC now says a doctor should offer her a test even if she exhibits no symptoms.