The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has announced that all blood donations in the US and its territories must be tested for the Zika virus.
The announcement on Friday will recommend all U.S. blood banks screen donated blood for the mosquito-borne virus, which allegedly causes birth defects.
The directive is a revision of a February guidance, which called for Zika testing of Whole Blood and blood components donated in areas shown to have active Zika transmission. The new guidance demands that all individual units of Whole Blood and blood components donated across the United States and its territories be screened using FDA-approved methods. Additionally, an FDA-sanctioned pathogen-reduction device can be used for plasma and some platelet donation.
“As new scientific and epidemiological information regarding Zika virus has become available, it’s clear that additional precautionary measures are necessary,” Luciana Borio, the FDA’s acting chief scientist, said in a statement.
Blood testing will not expand all at once, as the FDA has advised that donation organizations in 11 states — Alabama, Arizona, California, Georgia, Hawaii, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, New York, South Carolina and Texas — begin testing for Zika in the next four weeks. These states include areas where Zika is actively spreading by various means, including mosquitoes and sexual transmission.
Donations in all states will be required to receive Zika testing within 12 weeks, according to the FDA.
Zika can spread through infected Aedes species mosquitoes, sexual contact, blood transfusions, laboratory exposure, or from a mother to her fetus. The virus is particularly dangerous to pregnant women and future mothers as it may cause microcephaly, a neurological birth defect that can cause a newborn’s head and brain to turn out smaller than normal, among other developmental issues.
Four out of five people with Zika do not develop symptoms, the FDA says, which can include fever, joint pain, maculopapular rash, and conjunctivitis.