Monday, February 01, 2016

Hong Kong Screening Blood Donors For Potential Zika Exposure

Credit WHO/O. O’Hanlon


One of the concerns with the Zika virus - particularly since testing is still difficult - is how to protect the blood supply from possible contamination.  Last week CDC's Principal Deputy Director Anne Schuchat, M.D., during a press conference, indicated that our own FDA is looking at the issue of blood supply, donors, and travelers.

Today Hong Kong's Hospital Authority has announced that starting tomorrow, their Blood Transfusion Service (BTS) will screen donors for recent travel to areas which are currently affected by the Zika virus, and blood donations will be deferred for at least 28 days from their departure date.

This is the same sort of screening process widely used to protect the blood supply from other mosquito-borne pathogens, including malaria and West Nile Virus.

Screening of blood donors to prevent Zika virus

The following is issued on behalf of the Hospital Authority:

The spokesperson for Hong Kong Red Cross Blood Transfusion Service (BTS) today (February 1) announced that with effect from tomorrow (February 2), anyone who has resided in or visited any countries which are affected by Zika virus (which include Barbados, Bolivia, Brazil, Cape Verde, Columbia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Martinique, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Puerto Rico, Saint Martin, Samoa, Suriname, the US Virgin Islands and Venezuela) will be screened under the new screening guidelines and deferred for blood donation in BTS donor centres for at least 28 days from the date he/she departed from the affected country. The incubation period for Zika virus is typically between three and 12 days. The BTS will closely follow the latest information on the virus outbreak as announced by the World Health Organization so as to revise blood donation screening policies.

The spokesperson added that the screening decision has been made as a precautionary measure by the Hospital Authority (BTS) Expert Panel on Blood and Blood Products Safety, and was endorsed by the Blood Transfusion Service Governing Committee. In fact, donors are currently temporarily deferred for blood donation if they have travelled to part of the countries or territories as mentioned in the past 12 months for the prevention of malaria, which is also an infection transmitted by mosquitoes.

The current blood donor screening policy includes enquiring about the travel history of prospective donors in the past 12 months. If a person has visited a malaria high-risk region in the last 12 months, or visited the West Nile virus prevalent regions in North America in the last 28 days, blood donation deferral will apply. The spokesperson also stressed that the objective of the deferral policy is to ensure blood safety, while blood supply would not be affected.

Ends/Monday, February 1, 2016
Issued at HKT 19:37

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