Red Cross asks blood donors to wait 28 days after visiting Zika
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[February 03, 2016]
By Sara Catania and Steve Gorman
(Reuters) - The American Red Cross appealed
on Tuesday to prospective donors who have visited Zika outbreak zones to
wait at least 28 days before giving blood, but said the risk of
transmitting the virus through blood donations remained "extremely" low
in the continental United States.
The "self-deferral" notice for blood donors should apply to those
who have visited Mexico, the Caribbean, or Central or South America
during the past four weeks, the Red Cross said in a statement.
The Washington-based nonprofit disaster relief agency also asked
that donors who give blood and subsequently develop symptoms
consistent with Zika within 14 days of donating to notify the Red
Cross so the product can be quarantined.
Cases of the Zika virus, a mosquito-borne illness linked to a
dangerous birth defect called microcephaly - marked by abnormally
small head size - and to a serious autoimmune disorder called
Guillian-Barre syndrome that can cause paralysis, has been reported
in more than 30 countries and territories.
The most common symptoms of infection are flu-like, such as aches
and fever About 80 percent of people infected show no symptoms
whatsoever, said Susan Stramer, a microbiologist for the Red Cross.
There is no blood test for the disease.
Still, "the risk of transmission through blood donation continues to
be extremely low in the continental U.S.," the Red Cross said in its
Stramer said even in Hawaii, which is currently experiencing an
outbreak of another mosquito-borne tropical disease, dengue fever,
the risk of contamination of the blood supply from Zika is low
because there has been no known transmission within the islands.
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The travel-related donor self-deferral notice, the first measure of
its kind taken by the Red Cross for a mosquito-borne disease, came a
day after the American Association of Blood Banks, an accrediting
organization, called for action, Stramer said.
The Red Cross statement came as the first known case of Zika virus
transmission in the United States was reported in Texas on Tuesday
by local health officials, who said it likely was contracted through
sex and not a mosquito bite. The World Health Organization on Monday
declared an international public health emergency over the virus.
Stramer said both developments coincided with the self-deferral
notice but did not prompt it.
(Writing by Steve Gorman; Editing by Richard Chang, Andrew Hay and
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