The American Red Cross noted in a press release Wednesday that they are closely monitoring the spread of Zika virus. As a precaution, the Red Cross will be working as quickly as possible to implement a self-deferral for blood donors who have traveled to Mexico, the Caribbean, or Central or South America within 28 days prior to presenting to donate.

U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Christopher Gross
U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Christopher Gross

In addition, they are asking that if a donor does donate and subsequently develops symptoms consistent with Zika virus infection within 14 days of that donation, that he or she immediately notify the Red Cross so that we can quarantine the product.

The Red Cross and other U.S. blood collection agencies continue to work with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and state health departments to track Zika and to update donor eligibility criteria as necessary.

The Red Cross continues to use safety measures to protect the blood supply from Zika and other mosquito-borne viruses. The risk of contracting Zika by blood transfusion in the continental U.S. is believed to be extremely low due to the absence of local mosquito transmission. They say as part of the current health screening process, only collect blood from donors who are healthy and feeling well at the time of donation. They  also provide a call back number if the donor develops any symptoms of disease within the next several days following donation. Donations from such donors are not used for transfusion.

Similar actions have also been taken in the UK as the NHS has banned travelers from giving blood for 28 days after they have returned from Zika infected countries over fears that the disease could be passed on.

A spokesperson for NHS Blood and Transplant said: “The safety of the blood supply is paramount and it is important we implement any precautionary blood safety measures agreed here as a result of an increasing prevalence of infectious diseases found around the globe.

“From 4th February 2016, we will have a 28 day blood donation deferral for people looking to donate blood in England and North Wales who have travelled to countries where the Zika virus is endemic.

“Travel to most of these countries already brings a blood donation deferral of at least 28 days. A 28 day deferral for travel to areas with a tropical virus risk and a 6 month deferral for travel to malarial areas exists. As a result we do not expect the introduction of a Zika donation deferral to significantly impact upon the number of people who can donate following travel abroad.”