On Friday, FDA took a drastic measure of strongly recommending the blood supply of all 50 U.S. states and territories be examined for any traces of the Zika virus. This step may be costly but it is a reflection of how serious the U.S. officials are about Zika and its threat to the citizens of the country.
Florida was the first state to have the Zika outbreak and it is constantly spreading. Some of the earlier cases were found in Miami, however it has been confirmed that cases are now being found in Palm Beach and St. Petersburg. The pathogen that spreads through mosquitoes has put the entire Gulf Coast at risk. 8000 Americans caught the disease while they were abroad, most of them from Puerto Rico. Around 2000 individuals got the disease locally.
The director of FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, Peter Marks said “people without symptoms infected with Zika virus could donate blood.” Therefore this action is necessary to stop the spread of the virus. According to Marks, their system has already detected a Zika-positive blood donation, which ensures that the screening system is working properly.
Around 1 million units of blood is collected in the U.S every month so the task of screening is quite a challenge; however, the FDA is adamant about taking this step. Marks said that in four weeks, eleven more states will be incorporating blood supply screening for the Zika virus. This includes Hawaii, California, New York, Texas, Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina, New Mexico, Arizona and Louisiana. He further said that in 12 weeks, this screening will be implemented in the entire country.
The only setback is that the screening method is still new and is at an experimental stage, so hundred percent accurate results may not be guaranteed.
The Zika virus first caught the world’s attention when it spread in Brazil and seriously impacted the babies by causing abnormalities in their brain. A lot of people don’t immediately develop symptoms when they get infected with the virus, which is even more dangerous, as at a later stage they can suffer from conditions such as neurological diseases, paralysis and at worst case death. The Zika virus can also be sexually transmitted.
FDA further emphasized that this action has been taken after complete consideration of all medical and scientific evidence and the tragic impact that the virus has on pregnant women and their babies.