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Using a call center to coordinate Zika virus testing—New York City, 2016

Jasmine Jacobs-Wingo, MPH, Ifeoma Ezeoke, MPH, Alhaji Saffa, MPH, Anna Tate, MPH, David Lee, MPH, MBA, Kimberly Johnson, MS, Katherine Whittemore, MPH, Alex Illescas, MPH, Austin Collins, Maytal Rand, MPH, Jennifer L. Rakeman, PhD, Jay K. Varma, MD, Neil M. Vora, MD


Background: After local testing criteria for Zika virus expanded to include asymptomatic pregnant women who traveled to areas with active Zika virus transmission while pregnant, the New York City (NYC) Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) experienced a surge in test requests and subsequent testing delays due to factors such as incorrectly completed laboratory requisition forms. The authors describe how DOHMH addressed these issues by establishing the Zika Testing Call Center (ZTCC).

Methods: Using a case study approach, the authors illustrate how DOHMH leveraged protocols, equipment, and other resources used previously during DOHMH's Ebola emergency response to meet NYC's urgent Zika virus testing needs. To request Zika virus testing, providers call the ZTCC; if patients meet testing criteria, the ZTCC collects data necessary to complete requisition forms and sends the forms back to providers. The ZTCC also provides guidance on specimens needed for Zika virus testing. Providers submit completed requisition forms and appropriate specimens to DOHMH for testing.

Results: During March 21 through July 21, 2016, testing for 3,866 patients was coordinated through the ZTCC.

Conclusion: The ZTCC exemplifies how a health department, using previous emergency response experiences, can quickly address local testing needs for an emerging infectious disease.


Zika virus, emerging infectious disease, emergency response

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