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Iowa Blood Supply Affected by Zika Virus

LifeServe Blood Center is requiring donors to defer blood donation for 28 days after returning from countries that have experienced cases of Zika virus. (facebook.com/pages/LifeServe-Blood-Center)
LifeServe Blood Center is requiring donors to defer blood donation for 28 days after returning from countries that have experienced cases of Zika virus. (facebook.com/pages/LifeServe-Blood-Center)
February 24, 2016

DES MOINES, Iowa - A woman who traveled to Central America is Iowa's first confirmed victim of Zika virus, one of 82 reported nationwide.

The disease, which is transmitted through contact with mosquitoes, has no known treatment.

LifeServe Blood Center is now prohibiting donors from giving blood for 28 days after returning from travel to Zika-affected areas.

Nicole Hanger, public relations and marketing manager of LifeServe, says the action is to protect the Midwest's blood supply.

"Zika has not been transfused through blood, however we are taking precautionary steps to just inform donors that if they have traveled to a region where the Zika virus is present, they will be deferred for 28 days in order to make sure they are healthy and eligible to come back and give their life-saving donation," she says.

LifeServe Blood Center is one of the 15 largest blood centers in the country, and provides blood to more than 100 hospitals in Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota.

The Food and Drug Administration released guidelines earlier this month suggesting donors wait four weeks before donating blood, and Hanger says that's consistent with the protocols the center has adopted.

"It varies from disease to disease, but this is protocol for West Nile, any other type of virus that may be present," says Hanger. "So we obviously want to protect the blood supply and make sure that our donors are safe and eligible to give blood."

The Zika virus has already been found in Mexico, the Caribbean, Central and South America, Samoa, and Cape Verde. The most common symptoms of Zika are fever, rash, joint pain, red eyes, muscle pain and headaches.

Hanger says restricting regular donors in this way may lead to a blood shortage.

"We're also trying to create awareness of, if you're not traveling, or if you haven't traveled, that we really need those donors to roll up their sleeve," Hanger says. "And help sustain the donor base for those who maybe will be deferred for the 28-day period."

More information about Zika and blood donation may be found at cdc.gov/zika.

Jeff Stein, Public News Service - IA