The following statement regarding Zika virus may be attributed to Dr. Susan Stramer, vice president of Scientific Affairs at the American Red Cross:
“The American Red Cross is dedicated to providing the safest, most reliable blood products possible to patients in need.
We are closely monitoring the spread of Zika virus. On March 14, the Red Cross implemented the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) guidance to reduce the risk of transfusion-transmission of Zika virus. Following the guidance, we have added a specific question to our donor health history questionnaire concerning travel to or residence in areas with local Zika virus transmission and we continue to ask donors to self-defer, or postpone their blood donation for four weeks, if they are at risk of Zika virus exposure.
Those risk factors include: travel to or residence in countries on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Zika Travel Information list within the last four weeks; diagnosis of Zika virus infection; existence of two or more Zika virus infection symptoms within two weeks of leaving an area with local transmission; or sexual contact within the last four weeks with a man who in the three months before sexual contact was diagnosed with Zika virus infection, or traveled to or resided in an area with local Zika virus transmission. Potential donors with any of these risk factors should schedule their blood donation for four weeks after the end of the defined risk periods noted above.
The Red Cross continues to use additional safety measures to protect the blood supply from Zika virus and other mosquito-borne viruses. As part of our current health screening process, we only collect blood from donors who are healthy and feeling well at the time of donation.
The Red Cross also provides a call back number if the donor develops any symptoms of disease within the next several days following donation. Specifically with Zika virus, we ask that if a donor does donate and subsequently develops symptoms consistent with Zika virus infection within two weeks of that donation, that he or she immediately notify the Red Cross so that we can quarantine the product. Donations from donors who develop any symptoms of disease are not used for transfusion.
The risk of contracting Zika virus by blood transfusion in the continental U.S. at this time is believed to be extremely low due to the absence of local mosquito transmission. The Red Cross continues to evaluate all emerging threats in collaboration with the FDA and CDC to determine what additional mitigation strategies are needed as the situation evolves.”