The FDA on Friday took measures to safeguard the country’s blood supply from the Zika virus, requesting that all blood banks screen donated blood for the disease; even in states where Zika isn’t circulating.
This is to combat the fact that the Zika virus can be sexually transmitted even in areas where the mosquitoes carrying the virus are not present. Officials are also preparing for the possibility that Zika clusters will continue to appear in the U.S for some time.
The dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, Dr. Peter J. Hotez, applauded the F.D.A.’s recommendation confirming that there could be several outbreaks of Zika occurring outside the presently known ones in South Florida. He added that because no one is actively searching, they could very well be occurring right now.
Without federal funds, it’s usually difficult for local health departments to conduct active surveillance for Zika virus in the blood or urine of individuals with fever or rash, Dr. Peter J. Hotez added.
The Food and Drug Administration encouraged blood facilities to use one of two experimental methods meant to find aggressive diseases, called nucleic acid evaluations, before allowing donor blood to be used in transfusions. But the suggestion will likely present a significant challenge for some blood banks and for the third party laboratories that perform much of the blood screening nationally, some specialists said.
Eleven states should set the new safeguards into position within a month. They include Arizona, Alabama, Georgia, California, New York Louisiana and Texas, which have several residents who vacationed at Zika-infected states or are near a place that currently has instances of mosquito infestation. Other provinces have 12 months to execute the FDA recommendations.