On August 26, 2016, FDA announced new recommendations for universal testing of donated whole blood and blood components to determine whether the Zika virus is present.  In an effort to protect the nation’s blood supply, FDA is amending its prior guidance.  FDA has expanded its recommendations for testing from simply those areas with active Zika transmission cases to testing for the entire blood supply.

Testing of donated blood is currently taking place in Florida, Puerto Rico and other areas with identified Zika virus patients.  Officials believe an expansion of the testing with help to limit the spread of Zika.  The expanded testing is expected to remain in place until the risk of transmission can be reduced.  Zika is primarily transmitted by the Aedes mosquito.  It may be transmitted by sexual contact.  The overwhelming majority of people infected with Zika never develop symptoms.  Those who do develop symptoms though may suffer join pain, small red bumps and irritated eyes.  Most notably, Zika virus infection during pregnancy has been associated with serious birth defects.

Donated blood is critical to our health system.  Most patients in need of blood transfusions would prefer to receive two units of Zika-free blood.