David Collins and his wife took precautions when they were traveling to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. The Walnut Creek residents knew about the spread of Zika virus and slathered on bug spray and wore long clothes.
But it didn’t work.
“Somewhere between the airplane and the hotel, I got bit,” Collins told NBC Bay Area.
He was bitten not one time, not two times, but four or five times. The 29-year-old and his wife want to start a family, so one of the first things they decided to do was get tested for Zika, which causes extreme birth defects, when they got home from their vacation. That’s when they were told by the Contra Costa County Health Department that testing wasn’t possible.
Collins was angry, and still is. In Contra Costa County, where at least seven cases of Zika have been confirmed, testing is not possible unless a person is showing symptoms.
“Like wait a minute, this doesn’t make sense,” Collins said, recalling his initial reaction to being told he couldn’t get the test.
He wrote to the state director of infectious diseases but received a disappointing response.
“If you had, or develop any symptoms consistent with Zika virus disease, CDC recommends that you be tested for evidence of Zika virus in your blood and urine.” The email provided no clearance to actually get the test, according to Collins, who isn’t showing any symptoms.
Still, the lack of tell-tale signs of the disease has done little to assuage his worries.
“The vast majority of people with Zika virus actually have no symptoms,” said pediatric specialist Dr. Randy Bergan, who works for Kaiser Permanente.
He says he supports accessible testing, but acknowledges that resources are scarce.
“It would be great to have some kind of very easy test to test people immediately after they come off the plane,” he said. “We just don’t simply have the resources to do that. We don’t have the test equipment available to do it.”
Again, those are words that provide little comfort to Collins.
“It’s scary,” he said. “It’s just scary.”