FDA advises testing for Zika in all U.S. blood products

Published: Aug. 26, 2016 at 9:39 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 26, 2016 at 10:08 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Friday, an announcement from the Food and Drug Administration advised all blood products in the United States be tested for Zika.

This is revised from earlier this year, where the FDA said only area with active Zika virus need to be tested.

Mosquitoes used to just be unwanted pests, but that changed with the rise of the Zika virus.

The Centers for Disease Control says 66 cases have been reported in Virginia alone, though all were contracted outside the state.

Following the FDA's recommendation, NBC12 reached out to local blood agencies.

At Virginia Blood Services, a spokeswoman said, "We're in the process of following [the] FDA recommendations for Zika virus testing," but, "a start date has yet to be determined."

The American Red Cross says it is also reviewing the recommendations. It's already conducting blood tests in five southeastern states and plans to expand to four more in the next two weeks.

Zika causes a mild illness in most people, but it can lead to severe brain-related birth defects, if pregnant women are infected

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says 529 Zika cases involve pregnant women.

That's one of the reasons the company Mosquito Authority is stepping up.

"We're actually a public health, pest control company, and we specialize in the control of mosquitoes," explains Mosquito Authority's owner/operator Anthony Duncan.

The company says the Zika threat is leading to more calls. That's just one of the reasons its offering free initial treatments for expectant mothers in the Richmond area.

"If they call and say they are pregnant will allow them to try the service for free. This is just one of the options that can be done for mosquito control," explains Duncan.

To help fight off mosquitoes, health officials recommend dumping any standing water in your yard, wearing long sleeves and long pants while outside and using repellants.

As for the Mosquito Authority, if you'd like learn more about its services, call: 804-545-2846 or go to their website.

Dr. Susan Stramer, vice president of Scientific Affairs at the American Red Cross released the following statement Friday evening:

The American Red Cross is dedicated to providing the safest, most reliable blood products possible to patients in need. We are reviewing the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's guidance released August 26 recommending universal testing of donated blood products in the U.S.

Currently, the Red Cross is conducting blood donor tests for Zika virus under an investigational study in five southeastern states in the U.S. that are believed to be at greatest risk of local mosquito transmission of Zika virus in which our collections occur. Over the next two weeks, we will expand this testing to four additional states in the south central and southwestern U.S.

We continue to work closely with the FDA, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and AABB, our professional organization, to prepare for the potential spread of Zika virus by defining appropriate mitigation strategies.

The Red Cross does not collect blood in South Florida where non-travel related Zika cases have recently been confirmed. Following the advice of the FDA, on August 1, the Red Cross implemented a donor deferral for those who have traveled to Miami-Dade County during the previous four weeks.

Last March, the Red Cross implemented the FDA guidance to reduce the risk of transfusion-transmission of Zika virus related to travel to active areas. Following the guidance, we added a specific question to our donor health history questionnaire concerning travel to or residence in areas with local Zika virus transmission and we continue to ask donors to self-defer, or postpone their blood donation for four weeks, if they are at risk of Zika virus exposure.

Every two seconds, someone in the U.S. needs blood, and that need can only be met through the generosity of volunteer donors. Eligible individuals are encouraged to give blood or platelets.

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