Blood banks in the US routinely test donations for HIV, hepatitis West Nile disease, and other blood-borne viruses. However, as of yesterday, the federal government has ordered all such facilities to screen for Zika as well. Until now, most blood testing was confined to Puerto Rico and parts of Florida found to be Zika zones.
It will now be expanded to all of the Gulf states, followed by the rest of the nation. Two experimental blood-screening tests for Zika, one made by Roche and another from Hologic Inc. and Grifols, have already received FDA approval.
Blood testing began in parts of Florida after the first cases of “homegrown” Zika popped up in Miami last month. The state currently has somewhere around 40 cases of Zika caused by mosquito bites. However, officials do not expect widespread outbreaks to occur elsewhere in the country, particularly as we head into fall and winter.
To date, approximately 2,500 cases of Zika in the United States have been tied to travel to outbreak areas outside the country, and blood banks here have been rejecting perspective donors if they had recently visited those regions, under a previous directive by the food and Drug Administration.
It should be noted that (so far) no cases of Zika have resulted from transfusion in the US (unlike Brazil). The order to test blood here came after a contaminated blood bag was discovered in Florida. Luckily, that particular the blood bag was still in quarantine at the time.
According to a statement issued by Dr. Peter Marks of the FDA, 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 a transfusion.”
Although Zika is primarily transmitted through the bite of the aegis Egypt mosquito, it has now been found that infected humans can transmit it to others via sexual intercourse, blood donations and the exchange of other bodily fluids While the virus remains in the blood system for about 7-days, it is thought to stay in other bodily fluids longer.
Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported the first US case of a Maryland man spreading Zika through sex after having traveled to the Dominican Republic, one of the many Caribbean and South Americans severely impacted by Zika outbreaks.
It was also stated that the man had not shown any symptoms of the disease, despite being infected. In fact, nearly 4 out of 5 people carrying the disease never develop symptoms, such as fever, joint pain, and rash.
For the most part, the virus causes only a mild illness in most people. The main fear is that infection during pregnancy can lead to severe brain-related birth defects including microcephaly and calcification.