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Thursday, February 4, 2016

Blood Banks Use Caution With Travelers From Zika Zones

Blood banks in the United States have begun asking potential donors not to give blood if within the last month they have visited a country in which the Zika virus is spreading.

The aim is to avoid contaminating the blood supply with the virus, said to AABB, the group that represents most blood donation groups in the United States.

Infection of pregnant women with the Zika virus may be linked to microcephaly — unusually small heads — in infants.

The American Red Cross has started to quiz potential donors about recent travel. But other blood banks are simply asking potentially infected donors to stay away.

“We are asking people to make their own judgment,” said Dr. Steven Kleinman, the AABB’s senior medical adviser. “The main thing is, if you have traveled to Mexico, Central or South America, or the Caribbean, people shouldn’t donate blood in first 28 days after their return.”

“It’s very precautionary,” he added. “We expect the large majority of people who return from those areas won’t be infected, but we are casting a wide net.”

Zika virus remains in the blood of an infected person for about a week, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There is no approved test that the banks can use to screen donated blood for the virus.

The Food and Drug Administration is developing criteria for deferring blood donors who have visited affected regions, an agency spokeswoman said.

Roughly 3 percent of blood donors tested positive for Zika infection during an outbreak in French Polynesian in 2013, noted the AABB, formerly known as the American Association of Blood Banks.

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