DES MOINES, Wash. (AP) — It was the news 17-year-old Olivia Evans had waited weeks to hear, but didn’t want to hear: A call from her doctor’s office and the county health department that she had tested positive for the Zika virus.
“I was speechless, I didn’t know how to react,” Evans said. “I was very shocked and then I got very sad.”
KOMO News has followed her story since she was first told she would have to wait four weeks for results of a blood test to see if she had contracted the virus while visiting Haiti. The Caribbean island is on the watch list of countries known to have the mosquito that carries the Zika virus.
Now she’s speaking out about her symptoms and the frustrating delays she experienced to get her blood tested.
“I came back from Haiti with lots of mosquito bites and it itched really bad,” Evans said.
In late April, a week after her return, the symptoms kicked in with full force.
“First it was the hives, it was more itchy than my mosquito bites and it wasn’t just at specific points, it was all over my body,” she said. “My hands swelled up, I couldn’t close them all the way, my ankles hurt and it hurt to walk.”
She says she was having hot and cold spells, ran a fever and would get bad headaches. The symptoms she experienced could point to a variety of things, according to doctors.
But the fact that she had never experienced these symptoms before and she just returned to a county where the mosquitos carrying Zika are widespread, her doctor at Virginia Mason’s Federal Way clinic requested a test for virus.
She says her doctor told her an answer would come in roughly four weeks because of a backlog of testing. The Centers for Disease Control is the only place in the US that conducts the test for Zika, and the agency admits it’s working on the backlog. There are no commercial tests available.
But after Evans shared her story with KOMO News, the Virginia Mason clinic where she was treated called with bad news. She says they told her her request for a test was not approved by the King County Health Department and the clinic had inadvertently destroyed her blood sample.
Her mother says she was told by the King County Health Department that the doctor failed to fill out the test request properly.
“I don’t think we’ve ever had an experience where our doctor ordered something and it was denied somewhere else,” said Olivia’s mother Marla Evans.
A representative of Virginia Mason says the clinic does not comment on patient matters, citing privacy laws. A spokesman for the King County Department of Health says the department forwards requests for testing if the doctor’s request meets the criteria set by the CDC for testing.
“They didn’t forward it because they didn’t feel like there was enough symptoms,” said Evans.
She says she was asked to give another blood sample, which she did. Six weeks after her doctor told her she may have Zika and wanted her tested, she finally got the results back.
“Looking back now, I’m glad that we went back, saying I did get more symptoms I need to be tested again,” Evans said. “If I wasn’t tested I would not have known I had the Zika virus.”
Evans wants to have kids someday and is aware of the virus’s potential cause of birth defects. Doctors told her to not think about having kids for possibly two years, but researchers have said publicly they are not sure of the long last effects of Zika.
Evans is glad she finally has an answer, but the answer has brought its own anxiety.
“What if I never found out? What if they find out it is still in your body after five years, if it will still affect your children?” she said. “I would never had known if we didn’t follow up on our own.”
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