Red Cross Moves to Keep Zika Out of Blood Supply
Agency asks potential donors who have traveled to areas where virus is active to wait 28 days
By Dennis Thompson
WEDNESDAY, Feb. 3, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- The American Red Cross on Wednesday asked potential blood donors who have traveled to areas where Zika infection is active to wait 28 days before giving blood.
"The American Red Cross is dedicated to providing the safest, most reliable blood products possible to patients in need," Dr. Susan Stramer, vice president of scientific affairs at the American Red Cross, said in a statement. "We are closely monitoring the spread of Zika virus."
People who give blood and subsequently develop symptoms of Zika virus within 14 days of their donation should notify the Red Cross so their blood can be quarantined, Stramer added.
Despite taking these precautionary measures, Stramer stressed that the chances of Zika-infected blood donations remain extremely low in the United States.
"The Red Cross continues to use safety measures to protect the blood supply from Zika and other mosquito-borne viruses," she said. "As part of our current health screening process, we only collect blood from donors who are healthy and feeling well at the time of donation. We also provide a call back number if the donor develops any symptoms of disease within the next several days following donation. Donations from such donors are not used for transfusion."
Also Wednesday, Canadian Blood Services, which manages most blood donations in Canada, said residents who travel outside Canada, the continental United States and Europe won't be able to donate blood for 21 days after their return.
Those twin developments came a day after local health officials in Texas confirmed a case of Zika virus infection that was transmitted by sex, and not by the bite of a mosquito.
The virus, which is typically spread by mosquitoes, is suspected of causing thousands of birth defects in Brazil.
The Dallas County Health and Human Services Department said that an unidentified patient had become infected with the Zika virus after having sex with an individual who had returned from Venezuela, one of the Latin American countries where Zika is circulating.
"This increases our awareness campaign in educating the public about protecting themselves and others," Health Department Director Zachary Thompson said in a statement. "Next to abstinence, condoms are the best prevention method against sexually transmitted infections."