Published: Sat, August 27, 2016
Health | By Constance Griffith

FDA expands Zika screening to all US blood centers

The revised guidance recommends that all states and USA territories screen individual units of donated whole blood and blood components with a blood-screening test authorized for use by the FDA under an investigational new drug application or with a licensed test when available.

USA health officials report that the Zika virus can be spread sexually even when a partner shows no signs of infection.

Previously, blood testing was mostly limited to parts of Florida and Puerto Rico, where Zika is spreading.

Blood banks already test donations for HIV, hepatitis, West Nile and other blood-borne viruses.

The FDA last month ordered blood banks in Florida's two most densely populated counties-Miami-Dade County and Broward County-to stop collecting blood.

Aside from the local transmission case in Miami Dade, other cases in the US have been reported by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) as travel-related. There have been cases of Zika transmission through blood transfusion in Brazil.

To date, three U.S. territories - Puerto Rico, American Samoa, and the U.S. Virgin Islands - have seen local mosquito-borne transmission of Zika virus. But in that case a mosquito bite - the usually source of Zika - couldn't be ruled out because both partners had traveled to an active Zika region outside the United States.

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"The donation was identified while the blood bag was still in quarantine, before it was released", Marks told reporters on a media call. Infants exposed later in pregnancy may escape microcephaly but can continue to have abnormal brain development and learning disabilities.

In Canada, the agency that oversees the country's blood supply is keeping a close eye on Zika transmission in the US, but has made no changes to the way it screens blood for infectious diseases or to its restrictions on donations.

Doctors believe as much as 80 percent of those infected with Zika never develop symptoms, while those who have symptoms suffer from fevers, joint pain and rashes.

Friday's announcement follows recent pressure from members of Congress urging the FDA to expand Zika screening.

The update to their February guidance is following careful review of all available scientific evidence, consultation with other agencies, and consideration of potential serious health consequences of Zika virus to pregnant women and newborns.

Health officials are following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention protocol and are providing the woman and her healthcare provider with current information regarding pregnancy outcomes after Zika exposure.

After months of health precautions, dozens of media reports and a few controversial social media posts, the Rio Olympics has concluded Zika-free, according to the World Health Organization. So far, there have been about 40 cases of Zika caused by mosquito bites in Florida.

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