A Bloody Business | The Zika Virus

Is Zika a Bloody Business?

The Zika virus is a mosquito-borne flavivirus and was first identified in Uganda in 1947 in monkeys. Later, it was recognized in humans in 1952 in United Republic of Tanzania and Uganda. Outbreaks of the virus have been recorded in Africa, the Americas, Asia and the Pacific.

Cases Diagnosed

There have only six records of locally acquired cases of Zika in the US. However, over 1,900 cases were reported dealing with travel-associated cases. Lab tests confirmed Zika virus in travelers returning to the United States from foreign countries. These travelers got the virus from mosquito bites and others who haven’t traveled got Zika through sex with a traveler.

How It Affects Blood Donations

Currently, there have been no confirmed blood transfusion-transmission cases of Zika in the United States. However, there is a strong possibility that the Zika virus can be spread through blood transfusions/transmission.

The majority of blood donors may not know they have been infected with the virus because most people infected don’t show any symptoms. It is suspected that in Brazil, there have been cases of Zika transmitted through blood. Researchers are currently investigating these suspicions. It is hard to distinguish those affected by Zika based on just the questionnaire that is given when donating blood. A laboratory test is a sufficient way to find out. Particularly those in affected areas.

The Red Cross released a statement asking individuals that are donating blood to take caution and looks out for risk factors. These risk factors include:

  • Travel or residence in countries within the last four weeks on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Zika Travel Information list.
  • Diagnosis of Zika virus infection.
  • Traveled to or resided in an area with local Zika virus transmission.
  • The existence of two or more Zika virus infection symptoms – within two weeks of leaving a Zika affected area.
  • Sexual contact within four weeks of diagnosis with a man within the three months before sexual contact.

Potential donors with any of the above risk factors should schedule their blood donation for up to four weeks after the end of the defined risk periods. It is important not to spread this virus.

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