The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a new guidance recommending the deferral of individuals from donating blood if they have been to areas with active Zika virus transmission, potentially have been exposed to the virus, or have had a confirmed Zika virus infection.
While there have been no reports to date of Zika virus entering the U.S. blood supply, the risk of blood transmission is considered likely based on the most current scientific evidence of how Zika virus and similar viruses (flaviviruses) are spread and recent reports of transfusion-associated infection outside of the U.S. Furthermore, about 4 out of 5 of those infected with Zika virus do not become symptomatic. For these reasons, the FDA is recommending that blood establishments defer blood donations from individuals in accordance with the new guidance.
In areas without active Zika virus transmission, the FDA recommends that donors at risk for Zika virus infection be deferred for four weeks. Individuals considered to be at risk include: those who have had fever, joint pain, rash or conjunctivitis during the past four weeks, those who have had sexual contact with a person who has traveled to, or resided in, an area with active Zika virus transmission during the prior three months, and those who have traveled to areas with active transmission of Zika virus during the past four weeks.
In areas with active Zika virus transmission, the FDA recommends that Whole Blood and blood components for transfusion be obtained from areas of the U.S. without active transmission. Blood establishments may continue collecting and preparing platelets and plasma if an FDA-approved, pathogen-reduction device is used. The guidance also recommends blood establishments update donor education materials with information about Zika virus signs and symptoms and ask potentially affected donors to refrain from giving blood.