FDA moves to protect blood donations from Zika virus

FDA moves to protect blood donations from Zika virus
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The Food and Drug Administration is recommending delays for blood donations from people deemed at risk of having the Zika virus.

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The FDA on Tuesday issued guidance "in order to protect the U.S. blood supply" recommending that donations from people viewed as at risk of having the virus be deferred for four weeks. 

The categories of people that fall within this “at risk” designation include those who have returned from countries with active transmission of the virus within the past four weeks. 

The delay in donating blood is also recommended for people with symptoms of the virus, or people who have had sex with someone who travelled to an affected country in the past three months. 

The FDA states that there have been no reports of Zika virus entering the U.S. blood supply. However, the agency adds, “the risk of blood transmission is considered likely based on the most current scientific evidence of how Zika virus and similar viruses (flaviviruses) are spread and recent reports of transfusion-associated infection outside of the U.S.”

The virus is mainly transmitted through mosquito bites. There have not yet been cases of mosquitos transmitting the virus in the United States, though some people returning to the U.S. from other countries have been found to have the virus. 

Officials say they expect any outbreaks of the virus in the U.S. to be limited to small clusters, given the experience with similar mosquito-borne viruses. 

The symptoms are generally mild, but there is risk for pregnant women given that the virus could be linked to birth defects that can cause developmental problems in children. 

The FDA said it is also prioritizing the development of better diagnostic tests. The White House’s request to Congress for $1.8 billion in funds also includes money to boost work on developing a vaccine.