Donor blood screenings for Zika virus

Donor blood screenings for Zika virus

LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - Starting Friday, blood donated at LifeShare Blood Centers will be tested for the Zika virus.  The changes are in line with a nationwide directive from the Food and Drug Administration to protect those on the receiving end of donor blood components.

Those components already undergo extensive testing before recipients can use them and LifeShare Director of Center Operations, Jeff Bacon, says starting September 23, you can add another to the list.

"Every unit of blood is going to be sent to our testing company and they're going to be testing specifically for the Zika virus, in addition to the more than a dozen other tests that we already perform on each unit of blood that's donated," said Bacon.

The preventative measure recommended by the FDA is meant to reduce the spread of the virus that is linked to birth defects.  The virus can be transmitted in blood for up to 30 days.

"It's about making sure that the blood we provide our patients is safe," said Bacon.

If you have been deferred from donating because of travel to a Zika-affected region, you will likely be allowed to donate again with this new screening tool.

"Currently there is a question on the questionnaire regarding travel and that will actually be going away as we begin testing for the Zika virus," said Bacon.

The biggest effect will be on blood centers, like LifeShare, who will be paying more for the testing.

The only change for donors is signing a consent form to have their blood tested.

"The process for donors should be seamless," said Bacon.  "They really shouldn't notice much of a change from that end.  There's not going to be any additional time to the donation or in the processing of the donation to the patient."

States have until mid-November to comply with this directive from the FDA.

The latest numbers from the CDC show Louisiana now has 29 confirmed cases of the Zika virus.  All of them are connected to travel.

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