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For months, the Zika virus, which is spread through mosquito bites, has remained in the headlines as the potential threat continues throughout the U.S. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that while there have been no local mosquito-borne Zika disease cases reported in the U.S., the cases that have been reported have been associated with travel and are assumed to grow with more travelers visiting or returning to the United States. Among one of the biggest threats associated with the Zika disease are the risks to pregnant women and their unborn child, however, what does the Zika virus mean for blood donations?
The Need for Donations
There always a need for blood donations, but due to the threat of the Zika virus, donations may be needed now more than before, as many potential donors are unable to donate blood. In several states, such as Arizona, Nevada, and Texas, United Blood Services has noticed a decrease in blood donations for a variety of reasons including: potential blood donors being turned away after traveling to areas with Zika virus, schools are out which eliminates school blood drives, and holiday weekends or summer vacation cuts into the convenience of blood drives.
Delays in Donating
Individuals, who have traveled to countries where Zika is present, may still be able to donate blood, but must wait 28 days after returning to the United States before doing so. Additionally, anyone who has unprotected sex with someone who traveled to an area where Zika virus is present, may also need to wait to donate blood.
How Safe are Blood Donations?
While anyone who may have contracted the Zika virus must wait at least 28 days before donating blood, there’s still question whether or not donations remain safe from the Zika virus. The American Red Cross will only accept blood donations from individuals who feel well and are not exhibiting any signs of Zika, which include fever, rash, headache, conjunctivitis, and joint/muscle pain. If an individual, who donated blood, suspects he or she may have Zika (after donation), he or she should contact the Red Cross and the donation will not be used.
Additionally, the FDA has approved a screening test to see if Zika is present in blood samples, but is currently not used in blood donations in the U.S. and will not be considered until the Zika virus becomes more of a widespread problem in the U.S.
Be Aware of the Risks and Donate Early
While the future of the Zika virus’ impact throughout the United States is unknown, you can do your part to protect yourself against contracting the Zika virus, such as protecting yourself against mosquito bites. If you do plan on on traveling to an area where Zika may be present, give blood before you travel, as your donation is always needed and will be used to help save lives.