The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued recommendations for donor screening and deferral and product management of whole blood and blood components to reduce the risk of transfusion-transmitted Zika virus.

The agency also recommends that blood donors self-defer from giving blood if they have

  • experienced Zika virus-like symptoms in the previous four weeks;
  • had sexual contact with someone who has traveled to or lived in an area with active Zika virus transmission in the past three months; or
  • traveled to areas with active transmission of Zika virus in the previous four weeks.

As of Feb. 17, 82 cases of Zika virus have been identified in the United States. None of these cases have been attributed to local transmission. Locally transmitted cases have been reported in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The Zika virus is spread to people primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. Its most common symptoms – fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis – generally are mild and last from a few days to a week. Just one in five people infected with the virus develop symptoms, and few of those get sick enough to require hospitalization.

Of greater concern is the link between Zika virus and microcephaly, a birth defect characterized by an irregularly small head. Researchers also believe there may be a link between Zika virus and subsequent cases of Guillain-Barré syndrome. Until more is known, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises pregnant women to postpone travel to Zika-affected areas or talk to their health care provider about preventing mosquito bites during travel.

America’s Essential Hospitals has established a resource page for those with an interest in this emerging public health threat. Essential hospitals provide a significant volume of public health and emergency preparedness services and stand ready to support the nation’s response to Zika virus. Visit this page regularly for new and updated information.