Zika already affecting US blood supply

Guidelines set by the Food and Drug Administration that prohibit blood donations from individuals who have traveled to regions with endemic levels of local Zika transmission are resulting in blood shortages in certain regions in the U.S.

Helmut Albrecht, MD, director of the Division of Infectious Diseases at the University of South Carolina School of Medicine in Columbia, told Greenville Online screening by travel history bars many uninfected donors from giving blood. Regarding blood centers in states like Florida and Texas whose residents visit countries with high levels of local Zika transmission more frequently, Dr. Albrecht said, "Those blood centers are likely to have a higher percentage of persons deferred. And if you're working on a marginal amount of supply, any additional loss of donors would be significant."

Previously, Puerto Rico — the U.S. territory hardest hit by the Zika outbreak — received blood from centers in the states. After the approval of investigational blood tests by the FDA, the island nation resumed collecting blood. If the virus were to proliferate in the U.S., some states would likely need to pull blood from non-endemic regions. This would increase the strain on the national blood supply.

"We helped supply Puerto Rico, with other centers, and we were struggling because we were trying to maintain the blood on our shelf and we don't want to have any negative result for our local community, which is our primary obligation," Tracy Bridges, chief technical officer at The Blood Connection, which serves Upstate South Carolina, toldGreenville Online. "But if this becomes a problem in the U.S., the reality is we'd have to say there just wouldn't be enough."

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