Concerns over Zika virus could lead to lower levels of blood supply in the US.
As health officials are racing to find a vaccine to prevent the Zika virus, a new type of concern over the infection has surfaced. The nation’s donated blood inventory could suffer as those with the possibility of having the virus may be turned away from blood banks, according to an article on philly.com.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says it is encouraging blood banks to decline donations from those who may be at risk of having the Zika virus, such as those who have recently traveled to a country where the virus is spreading, and also those who may have had sexual contact with someone who may have been exposed to Zika. The agency says the protocol is being followed at blood donation locations across the US.
Lawrence Gostin, a professor at Georgetown University and faculty director of its O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law, speaking of the recommendation, said, “We need to protect the blood supply. It would be a major scandal if there were cases of Zika transmitted – particularly if it affected women of childbearing age.”
Zika has been linked to birth defects when pregnant women have contacted the virus, either through mosquito bites or sexual contact.
Currently, there is not an approved blood test for screening the virus prior to a donation, but there is one such experiment being conducted in Puerto Rico and the Houston area.
There are over 800 confirmed cases of the Zika virus in the United States, with the vast majority being connected with traveling to those countries where the virus is spreading rapidly. At this time, it it thought that none of the cases involved being transmitted by local mosquitoes, but experts say it is just a matter of time before that happens on the US mainland.
Though the evidence is limited that the virus may be spread through blood transfusions, officials are being cautious until more definite answers are available.
Officials worry the threat may impact blood banks even in areas that are not likely to pose a serious threat of Zika contamination, causing a drop in available blood supplies.