Tropical Storms and ZIKA risks – FDA says blood should be tested

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The Food and Drug Administration is recommending that blood banks screen all blood donations in the U.S. for the Zika virus.

It’s a major expansion from a Feb. 16 advisory that limited such screening to areas with active Zika virus transmission.

In a statement released Friday, the FDA says all those areas are currently in compliance with blood screening, but that expanded testing is now needed.

“As new scientific and epidemiological information regarding Zika virus has become available, it’s clear that additional precautionary measures are necessary,” the FDA’s acting chief scientist, Luciana Borio, said in the statement.

The expansion of testing won’t happen all at once. The FDA is advising blood establishments in 11 states to begin testing within the next four weeks. Those states include Alabama, Arizona, California, Georgia, Hawaii, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, New York, South Carolina and Texas.

These states are in proximity to areas where Zika is actively spreading via mosquitoes or where there are a significant number of cases related to other exposures, including sexual transmission.

Within 12 weeks, blood facilities in all states should be testing donations for Zika, the FDA says.

Currently, Zika is being spread by mosquitoes in South Florida, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, as well as most countries in the Caribbean and Central and South America. There are more than 2,000 cases of Zika in the U.S. that are due to exposure to the virus while travelling in other countries.

In issuing the new recommendations, the agency noted that 4 out of 5 people infected with Zika virus never develop symptoms. Thus, questions that blood banks routinely ask about the risks of disease might not catch people who have been exposed and who have been infected with the Zika virus.

Zika virus infection during pregnancy has caused serious birth defects in a few cases in the U.S. and hundreds of cases in Central and South America where infants have been born with microcephaly, a condition where the brain and skull are malformed.

There have been no cases of Zika related to blood transfusions in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“There is still much uncertainty regarding the nature and extent of Zika virus transmission,” says Peter Marks, director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research. “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 transfusion.”


While a tropical storm or hurricane would initially blow mosquitoes out of the sky, it could also leave behind standing water that allows the insects to breed, said Joseph Conlon, technical adviser to the American Mosquito Control Association.

Florida braces for a double whammy from Mother Nature on Thursday, with a tropical wave in the Caribbean potentially threatening to balloon into a tropical storm or hurricane just as the region fights outbreaks of the mosquito-borne Zika virus.

While the unnamed storm could still bring rain to Florida over the next few days, by Friday the threat of it developing into a tropical storm or hurricane largely subsided. But this year’s hurricane season is only in its infancy, meaning a major tropical storm or hurricane could still spin up and threaten the region in the coming months.

Such a storm would make it harder to control the Zika outbreak, which has grown to 43 cases in Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties. Zika poses the greatest threat to pregnant women and their fetuses, who can develop devastating birth defects if infected by the virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott said state emergency officials were monitoring the Caribbean storm, but didn’t activate the state’s emergency operations center.

“Our goal is to protect the pregnant women in our state and all developing babies”

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