All blood donations in the U.S. to be tested for Zika; Canadian Blood Services monitoring situation

(OTTAWA) - The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced today its recommendation that all donated blood in the United States and its territories be tested for the Zika virus. Previously, the FDA had recommended that blood be tested for Zika in areas where there is active spread of the virus among mosquitoes. Now, all states are being asked to test their donated blood for the virus after considering evidence pertaining to its transmission in the U.S.

Canadian Blood Services and Héma-Québec, Quebec’s blood operator, are carefully monitoring the Zika virus in the United States and are taking this situation seriously. At this time, there are no changes to our current restrictions already in place to protect Canada’s blood supply against the Zika virus. We’ve determined the risk of the Zika virus entering the Canadian blood system to be extremely low but as we monitor the situation, we are prepared to update our screening criteria should it pose a risk to the Canadian blood supply.

We previously revised our eligibility criteria for donors to mitigate the risk of the virus entering the Canadian blood supply in early February. Anyone who has travelled outside of Canada, the continental United States and Europe is currently ineligible to give blood for three weeks (21 days) after their return. This new waiting period was implemented across the country on Feb. 5, 2016. The Zika virus infection does not last long in the blood, typically three to five days following the beginning of symptoms, and is cleared within 21 days. The 21-day waiting period ensures enough time has passed for the virus to be eliminated from a person’s bloodstream. We encourage people to think about donating blood before they travel, to minimize the impact of travel deferrals on the Canadian blood supply.

Canadian Blood Services and Héma-Québec meet regularly with Health Canada to discuss the evolving situation involving the Zika virus and will continue to do so.

In Canada currently, the risk of transmitting Zika virus through a blood transfusion from an infected donor who traveled to Florida is one in 45 million. As previously reported, the overall risk of a contaminated unit of blood getting into Canada’s blood supply due to a donor who had traveled outside this country is one in 8.3 million. This includes the risk from female donors who may not have traveled but who have had sex with an infected man.