BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — The FDA now says the Zika virus has to be added to the list of viruses they screen for in blood donors. Right now, all across the Country, blood banks are preparing to test for the virus in 100% of blood donations, the mandate varies for every state. New York State blood banks have 4 weeks to implement the screening process
The state of Florida is already screening for Zika right now. 11 other states including New York have less than 30 days. The rest of the United States has less than 90 days for the new screening process.
Doctor Joanne Becker, the Medical Director with Community Blood Services for UNYTS says New York has the highest number because of travelers coming into the state. She said, “New York has one of the highest numbers of Zika diagnosed, we are one of the first states to implement this, and we have to have it in place by September 23rd.”
Becker says her organization is in the process of getting ready for the new mandate. “We were just looking at the list of things that we need to implement before we do this, we need to know what samples to obtain from our donors, where to get them tested, where to record the results so we don’t have any mixups there, and that all of this gets done in a timely manner before the units go to the hospital”
Becker says when it comes to donated blood coming from different parts of the country, UNYTS sources blood from a low risk area when needed.
“Most of the units that we get from our external vendors come from the upper Midwest, luckily for us the Aedes mosquito does not live there, so we don’t have to worry about transmission for that, it would be travel.”
Right now, if you try to donate blood for UNYTS or anywhere else, you’ll see warning signs – telling potential donors about travel advisories and what the symptoms of Zika are.
UNYTS says one testing begins, if someone is found to be positive, they will be notified via letter, and given a 120 day deferral. For now, blood banks across the nation are not taking blood from anyone who is at risk.
“If someone needs a unit of blood, we are going to make sure we have it available and it’s as safe as we can probably make it.”, said Becker.
In a statement – the American Red Cross says they are following the same FDA guidelines for screening – and has stopped collecting blood in South Florida due to the spike in Zika Infections.
View the Red Cross statement here: http://www.redcross.org/news/press-release/Red-Cross-Statement-on-Zika-Virus-Screening