United Blood Services Cautions Donors About Zika Virus
The regional office of the United Blood Services is asking potential donors who have traveled to the Caribbean, Mexico, Central and South America not to donate blood for 28 days after leaving those areas, according to a news release.
The mosquito-borne Zika virus is becoming more widespread there, and a growing number of cases in the United States have been identified among travelers returning from affected areas, according to the office that includes Wyoming, North Dakota and South Dakota.
“Zika virus could be transmitted by transfusion and there is no test to screen blood donors,” said Dr. Hany Kamel, vice president and corporate medical director for Blood Systems, the national office of the nonprofit United Blood Services.
“We are aware that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is discussing official guidance about donors who have traveled to these regions. Until that guidance is available, we are taking this cautionary step," Kamel said.
The restriction is expected to reduce the number of eligible donors across the country by an estimated 2 percent, according to a recent survey of community blood centers.
Blood centers in states along the border with Mexico will be particularly affected. Likewise, centers will be affected in the north and Midwest where some residents routinely travel to Mexico and the Caribbean to escape winter weather.
“This hits right in the middle of cold and flu season, so it’s really important for the rest of us to step up to make sure the community has a safe and ample blood supply,” said Troy Dahman, Regional Field Operations Director of United Blood Services in Cheyenne.
“If you’re healthy and are not affected by this post-travel waiting period, please make an appointment today to donate blood in the coming weeks," Dahman said.
Zika virus is spread to people through mosquito bites, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "The most common symptoms of Zika virus disease are fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes). The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting from several days to a week. Severe disease requiring hospitalization is uncommon."
However, the outbreak in Brazil lead to reports of Guillain-Barré syndrome and pregnant women giving birth to babies with birth defects and poor pregnancy outcomes, according to the CDC.
For information about donating blood, visit www.UnitedBloodServices.org or call 877-827-4376.
United Blood Services of the Dakotas has offices in Bismarck, Fargo and Minot, N.D.; Aberdeen, Mitchell, and Rapid City S.D., and Casper and Cheyenne.
These offices collect more than 125,000 blood products annually for patients in 108 area hospitals. They are part of the national United Blood Services network, which helps save and sustain the lives of patients in 22 states.