Instructions for diagnostic testing of the Zika virus

The Zika virus disease can be diagnosed during the first week after the appearance of symptoms by performing a simple reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) on serum. As a doctor you are no doubt familiar with that. However, there are no commercially available diagnostic tests for Zika virus disease; testing is carried out at the CDC Arbovirus Diagnostic Laboratory and a few state health departments. You should contact your state health department to facilitate testing and follow instructions.

Instructions for Submitting Diagnostic Specimens to the DVBD Arbovirus Diagnostic Laboratory

Include the following information:

·         Date of onset of symptoms.

·         Date of specimen collection.

·         Any pertinent travel history (3 months prior to the date of symptom

·         The patient's name.

Complete these fields to enable printing of CDC submission form 50.34:

·         Specimen Origin field (located on first page, top left corner), select “human” from the drop-down menu.

·         Test Order Name field (located on first page, top left), select “arbovirus serology” from the drop-down menu.

·         Original Submitter e-mail field (located on first page, middle right box), type your e-mail address .

·         Brief clinical summary (located on second page, top of page), include the name(s) of the arbovirus(es) for which you are requesting testing, if known. Also, if you would like to request testing other than serology, please note the type of test requested in this field.


For information about shipping packages and applicable regulations, refer to the NCEZID Division of Scientific Resources' Specimen Management website for further information.

Send all specimens to:

ATTN: Arbovirus Diagnostic Laboratory, DRA
3156 Rampart Road
Fort Collins, CO 80521

Specimen Types and Amounts:

Acute and convalescent specimens, if possible, should be sent together.

Ideal timing of specimens for serology:




3-10 days after the onset of symptoms.


2 to 3 weeks after acute sample.


At least 0.5 mL of serum and/or 1.0 mL of CSF is required for serology testing. Whole blood will not be accepted for serology testing.  Please transfer serum or CSF to a plastic tube with screw cap measuring no more than 5 cm tall and about 13 mm in diameter.

For serology testing, the specimen should be kept cold or frozen. The sample may be placed in an insulated container with blue ice packs.

For virus isolation and/or nucleic acid amplification testing, acceptable specimens are fresh frozen (as soon as possible at -70ºC) tissue, serum, or cerebrospinal fluid. Tissue specimens should be approximately 1 cm⊃3, and shipped on enough dry ice so that specimens remain frozen until received.


Test results are normally available 4-14 days after specimen receipt. Receipt of a hard copy of the results will take at least 2 weeks after testing is complete. If the initial results are positive, further confirmatory testing may delay the reporting of final results. All results are sent to the appropriate state health department. Notify your state health department of any submissions to CDC.