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Utah based company developing a test to detect Zika Virus

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Posted at 5:54 PM, Feb 10, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-10 19:54:00-05

BOUNTIFUL, Utah – A Utah based company is taking what they hope will be a big step towards detecting the Zika virus.

Fears of the Zika virus spreading beyond 29 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean are growing, and now a handful of cases have popped up in the U.S.

“Zika virus is a virus related to yellow fever, west Nile, dengue,” said Dr. Sankar Swaminathan, the director of Infectious Diseases Division at the University Hospital.

Pregnant women and unborn babies are at risk of contracting the mosquito-borne illness, which is tied to birth defects in newborns.

“There's no vaccine or specific treatment,” Swaminathan said.

A Utah company is trying to make their mark in detecting the disease. Joseph Featherstone, head of operations at Co-Diagnostics in Bountiful, said they’ve developed technology that could speed up testing, which usually takes weeks or even months.

“We will have a test that is not only accurate and is very specific to Zika, but probably a test that can be done in less than an hour,” Featherstone said.

By pinpointing the specific disease, doctors can provide the right course of treatment.

“The first step to accurate treatment, is an accurate diagnosis,” said Andrew Benson, head of public relations for Co-Diagnostics.

Featherstone and his team are verifying the test in-house. From there, they’ll send it to a second party for validation. With the World Health Organization predicting 3 to 4 million people across the Americas will be infected with Zika virus in the next year, they’re eager to combat it.

“Time is of the essence. We have to move quickly,” Featherstone said.

If the test is approved, it's up to federal regulators to review it, and determine when the test would be available to use.