The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is advising blood banks to screen all blood donations in the U.S. for the Zika virus.
It’s an effort to protect the nation’s blood supply from the mosquito-borne disease, which can cause severe birth defects — including microcephaly and other fetal brain defects — in children whose mother contracted the virus while pregnant.
Previously, the FDA had limited its blood screening recommendation to areas with active Zika virus transmission.
Dr. Peter Marks, director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, says in a statement:
“There is still much uncertainty regarding the nature and extent of Zika virus transmission. At this time, the recommendation for testing the entire blood supply will help ensure that safe blood is available for all individuals who might need transfusion.”
Zika is spreading at “epidemic rates” in Puerto Rico, and it’s caused at least two outbreaks in Florida, NBC reports.
According to the FDA statement:
Testing of donated blood is already underway in Florida and Puerto Rico, as well as in other areas, and it has shown to be beneficial in identifying donations infected with Zika virus.
NBC reports that blood donations are typically tested for:
- Hepatitis B
- Hepatitis C
- West Nile virus
- A virus called HTLV
- The bacteria that causes syphilis
- The parasite that causes Chagas disease
Although the FDA’s recommendation is nothing more than nonbinding advice, blood banks often follow such suggestions.
NPR says there are 2,517 cases of Zika in the U.S. today and an additional 9,011 cases in U.S. territories.
The mosquito-borne virus also can be transmitted:
- Through sex
- From mother to child during pregnancy
- Through a blood transfusion
- Through lab exposure
If you’re looking for a way to protect yourself against the virus, try one of these “5 Best Repellents for Zika Virus Mosquitoes.”
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