Christina Frigo is 32 weeks pregnant and works as a freelance copywriter in Miami. Her doctor’s office told her that they needed approval from the DOH to test her blood, and that the agency was only approving those who live in the same zip code as Wynwood. She does live in that zip code, and given that I was provided this test courtesy of the DOH and do not live there, the information given by her doctor seems inaccurate. The next day, they sent her blood to another lab for a fee of $85.
Her father has been trying to convince her to move to the Midwest for months for fear of Zika. “It felt far away,” she remembers, “and now, all of a sudden, it’s in our zip code. I haven’t left my house except to go to the doctor’s office.” When we spoke, she was on her way back from an emergency ultrasound to make sure that things with her baby were okay. It’s unclear how much damage can be caused from an infection in the third trimester, but she’s not taking any chances.
She and her husband just made the decision to move to Chicago to live with her mother for the remainder of the pregnancy. Given her freelance job, they have the flexibility to go, though it wasn’t a decision they made lightly. “It seems crazy, but I don’t know,” she says.
With regard to the availability of testing, and the efforts of authorities to control the disease, she observes, “It just feels like too little too late… It’s crazy how much they could have done in advance and nothing was done. They’re all of a sudden taking these reactionary measures, and it’s not enough.” She says she’s concerned that there hasn’t been enough action because this is much more of a threat to pregnant women than it is to men.
Another local expectant mother, Sheela Dominguez, is the director of strategic operations at the Miami Clinical and Translational Science Institute at University of Miami. She says, “I've been acting as if this is an active pandemic since March, so the news that there is local transmission wasn't too shocking to me.” She has been taking extra preventative measures for a while now, including having her house sprayed by Terminix once a month for five months and putting a fan near her doorway to keep bugs out.
She’s concerned that her OB/GYN hasn’t spoken to her once about Zika in six-and half-months of pregnancy. She works in healthcare, but wonders, “How many people have no idea about this and are just now learning about it?” She believes that it should be standard practice that pregnant women all over the U.S. are tested for Zika because there are cases in almost every state. “I would like to know if I have or did have it, but you have to fight to get a blood test. And then, what if I test positive for Zika or antibodies? What is the next step?”
This is the real question for women who are pregnant and facing the possibility of Zika infection. She points out that most serious brain abnormalities can be detected with a fetal MRI. Would insurance even cover that, she wonders? In Florida, abortion is only legal up to 24 weeks. For women as far along in their pregnancy as Dominguez and I are, if a Zika infection terribly damaged the fetus, and we decided on having an abortion, those restrictive laws would pose an overwhelming emotional, practical, and financial challenge.