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    FDA: Wait Month to Give Blood After Zika Area Trip

    Four weeks is long enough for the virus to pass out of the body, agency says

    WebMD News from HealthDay

    By Dennis Thompson

    HealthDay Reporter

    TUESDAY, Feb. 16, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- To protect the U.S. blood supply, people who've traveled to places where the Zika virus is prevalent, or who have symptoms that suggest infection, should wait a month before donating blood, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced Tuesday.

    Four weeks is enough time for the virus to pass through a person's system, the agency said.

    The mosquito-borne Zika virus is thought -- but not proven -- to be behind an epidemic of birth defects that leave newborns with very small heads and possible brain damage.

    According to the FDA, people considered to be at risk for Zika include those who have:

    • Traveled to areas with active transmission of Zika virus during the past four weeks. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now lists 30 countries and territories in Latin America and the Caribbean as places with active Zika infection.
    • Engaged in sexual contact with a person who has traveled to, or resided in, an area with active Zika virus transmission during the prior three months.
    • Developed symptoms suggestive of Zika virus infection during the past four weeks.

    "The FDA has critical responsibilities in outbreak situations and has been working rapidly to take important steps to respond to the emerging Zika virus outbreak," Dr. Luciana Borio, the FDA's acting chief scientist, said in an agency news release. "We are issuing this guidance for immediate implementation in order to better protect the U.S. blood supply."

    There have been no reports to date of Zika virus entering the U.S. blood supply, the FDA said, but the risk of blood transmission is considered likely based on the most current scientific evidence of how Zika and similar viruses are spread.

    About 4 out of 5 of those infected with Zika virus do not become ill, which makes it tougher to determine whose blood might carry the pathogen, the agency noted.

    The FDA announcement follows a similar move made by the American Red Cross last week, in which the organization asked potential blood donors who have traveled to Zika-affected areas to wait 28 days before giving blood.

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