What The Zika Virus Means For Blood Transfusions

Blood TransfusionThere is a lot of concern swirling around about Zika virus, but it is important in times like this that we stay informed. The American Medical Association has provided us with a Resource Center to keep us in the know about Zika Virus and what to do if it occurs. We may know that Zika virus comes from Aedes mosquitos, but there is much more to know about Zika virus and how to prevent it in our lives. There are many questions regarding blood transfusions and Zika circulating around, and it is important that we educate ourselves on the matter. Here are a few common questions and their corresponding answers.

Can Zika be transmitted through donated blood?

The knowledge regarding the ways Zika virus can be transmitted is limited. There is, however, evidence that implies there may be a risk to blood safety. For example, the virus has been detected within blood donors in locations where Zika is circulating. Related viruses such as dengue, West Nile virus, and chikungunya have been transmitted through blood transfusion. In addition, Brazilian health authorities have found two possible cases of transmission of the Zika virus via blood transfusion. This information points to the idea that there is a risk of transferring the Zika virus through blood transfusion.

What precautions can we take to avoid this?

As far as prevention is concerned, a number of precautions can be taken to ensure that the blood supply is safe in countries that are being affected by the Zika virus. Some recommendations include implementing top notch management programs throughout the transfusion process. We also need to ensure that blood donation is repeated, voluntary, and from low-risk populations. There also needs to be proper training for blood services staff and blood products users. Most importantly, blood services must be well organized.

Will blood donations still occur in areas that are affected?

It may be necessary for blood collection to continue in order to meet the needs for blood and its components. This need may arise when a large area of the country is being affected by the outbreak and it is not possible to get blood from unaffected regions.

How could blood donation be tested for the presence of Zika virus?

In some cases, it may be possible to test blood donation for the presence of Zika virus. This would be done using viral inactivation or pathogen reduction technology (PRT) for plasma and platelets. There also may be selective testing in some cases, such as nucleic acid testing for the presence of the virus in blood donors who have recently returned from affected countries. This testing may be considered as an alternative to the deferral that would otherwise occur.

Zika virus is spreading, and it is important to gather all of the facts. If you are thinking about donating blood, or if you or someone you know needs a blood transfusion, make sure that you get all of the facts regarding Zika virus and blood transfusions. Blood Transfusions will still occur, but precautions are being taken to make sure that the Zika virus does not spread through blood transfusions.