Blood banks hit by Zika donor rules, leaving some regions in critical shortage

The Food and Drug Administration is urging blood banks to turn away potential donors at risk for Zika. While the new protocol protects the nation's blood supply from infection, it's also contributing to pressing blood shortages in certain regions, according to Kaiser Health News.

While evidence is limited, health officials believe that Zika — normally transmitted through mosquitoes — could also spread through blood transfusions. Therefore, blood banks are not letting anyone donate blood for four weeks if they traveled to a country where Zika is being spread or had sex with someone who traveled.

Officials at the American Red Cross issued an emergency call for blood on Tuesday, citing critical shortages in New Jersey and other areas of the U.S. The American Red Cross estimates that so far .11 percent of donors have been turned away due to Zika exposure. However, a spokesperson noted this number does not account for people who would have donated but never came due to the new restrictions.

In California, BloodSource issued a critical appeal Tuesday after its reserves dipped 5,000 pints below inventory levels needed to meet hospital demand. BloodSource centers have enough blood in storage to last about two days if donations stopped entirely, said Chris Gresens, MD, the network's senior medical director and vice president of global medicine, in a Sacbee report.

United Blood Services operates blood banks in 17 states and said its donations are down by 3 percent this year.

Federal officials hope to expand blood testing technology currently used in Puerto Rico and Texas to allow blood banks to collect blood, screen it and discard any samples that test positive for Zika. So far, the FDA has given emergency use authorization to three blood test kits to detect Zika in the blood.

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