As Zika virus spreads, blood banks adjust

Feb 22, 2016

Concerns over the spread of the Zika virus is changing the way blood banks operate.

Credit File photo

At the heart of the change is a virus that currently has no test for its existence and no treatment for someone who is bitten by a mosquito transmitting the bug. The mosquito which transmits Zika is rampant in areas people tour to at this time of year, like the Caribbean and Mexico.

The FDA is ordering blood banks to ask donors if they have visited an infected area.

"We do also have a process so should someone not report information directly there and self-exclude, but they report travel as part of our regular questioning to determine donor eligibility we have not any donors that we would have had to exclude there either," explained Christine Dunwoodie, clinical and regulatory director for blood donor services for Unyts.

"There is some overlap, though, with areas that are considered malaria risk."

No areas inside the U.S. are involved although the specific mosquito which carries Zika and other very bad diseases is prevalent in much of the deep south. Zika is associated, especially in Brazil, with serious birth defects, so pregnant women and those who want to become pregnant are being told to avoid areas where the virus is present.