Amid a mounting outbreak of the mosquito-borne virus in the United States, all donated blood should undergo tests for the Zika virus, which can cause birth defects, US regulators said.
"There is still much uncertainty regarding the nature and extent of Zika virus transmission," said Peter Marks, director of the Food and Drug Administration's Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research. "At this time, the recommendation for testing the entire blood supply will help ensure that safe blood is available for all individuals who might need transfusion."
‘There is still much uncertainty regarding the extent of Zika virus transmission. The recommendation for testing the entire blood supply will help ensure that safe blood is available.’
The move revises a previous FDA guideline issued in February that recommended active screening of donated blood only in "areas with active Zika virus transmission." But now, as evidence of sexual transmission mounts and those infected often show no symptoms, even stricter safeguards are needed across the nation, said the FDA.
"The FDA is updating its guidance after careful consideration of all available scientific evidence, consultation with other public health agencies, and taking into consideration the potential serious health consequences of Zika virus infection to pregnant women and children born to women exposed to Zika virus during pregnancy."
More than 2,500 people in the United States have been diagnosed with Zika, and more than 9,000 in the US territories such as Puerto Rico. Most of those cases were brought in by people who were infected while traveling abroad.
But Florida announced last month its first cases of locally transmitted Zika, a number that is now above three dozen. "Testing of donated blood is already underway in Florida and Puerto Rico, as well as in other areas, and it has shown to be beneficial in identifying donations infected with Zika virus," said the FDA.
"Expanded testing will continue to reduce the risk for transmission of Zika virus through the US blood supply and will be in effect until the risk of transfusion transmission of Zika virus is reduced."