SARASOTA, Fla. (WFLA) – A Sarasota woman started experiencing symptoms of the Zika virus, but when she went to the hospital, she was given the runaround. Earlier this month, Kimberly Martinez vacationed in Tortola.
She began experiencing strange symptoms, including a stiff neck, fever and swelling.
“And then when we were on the plane flying back, my body started to break out in a rash that kinda looked like prickly heat but it really covered all of my body and was really very itchy,” Martinez recalled.
She suspected she had Zika but wanted to know for sure. “My biggest concern really was, was I infected and what did that mean that I needed to do to make sure I didn’t impact other people in our community,” Martinez said.
She went to Sarasota Memorial Hospital. They referred her to the county health department, and then the runaround began. When Martinez called the number, she was told she could get a free Zika test if she was pregnant. She’s not pregnant, though.
“It was absolutely frustrating to not be able to clearly know where to go and what to do,” Martinez said.
She eventually decided just to get the test with her primary physician. The screening was a blood and urine sample. She had to wait four days for the response, but the test confirmed she had Zika.
“It was a longer process than I had expected,” Martinez said.
She was quarantined, and now the symptoms are gone.
8 On Your Side learned hospitals are not equipped to do Zika testing. “Zika is more of a public health issue than a personal issue. The health department is the one who needs to gather those numbers,” said Lisa Collins-Brown, the emergency department director at Sarasota Memorial Hospital.
“The hospital itself does not do Zika testing, we can draw specimens if a patient meets criteria for testing, and then we would send those on to the health department,” Collins-Brown added.
In addition, Zika screenings are very expensive. They can cost around $800. Couple that with an emergency room visit, and a patient will be spending big bucks. “To come to the emergency department, the patient is going to incur the costs of an emergency department visit and technically this isn’t an emergency,” Collins-Brown explained.
Officials suggest you should do what Martinez did. If you suspect you have Zika, call your primary care physician first. If you’re pregnant, you may qualify for a free screening.
Zika patients are able to transmit the disease to mosquitoes during the first week of showing symptoms, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Officials suggest if you have Zika, stay indoors, take medicine to treat the symptoms and take proper precautions to avoid being bit by mosquitoes.