Zika virus: Don’t donate blood for 3 weeks after returning home from travels
Canadian Blood Services has introduced a new precautionary measure to stop the spread of Zika virus.
Canadians returning home from outside of the country, continental United States and Europe won’t be permitted to donate blood for three weeks, Canadian Blood Services said, adding the new waiting period starts Friday.
“This new temporary deferral period will safeguard Canada’s blood supply against the Zika virus, and will also help us protect against other similar mosquito-borne viruses,” Dr. Dana Devine, chief medical and scientific officer of CBS, said in a statement.
Initially, the deferral period was one month after returning from travel from Zika-affected areas. By Wednesday, CBS changed its eligibility criteria to a 21-day waiting period.
CBS says the three-week mark will be “enough time” for the virus to leave an infected person’s bloodstream. The waiting period begins on the day a person returns to Canada.
It also applies to cord blood and stem cell donors who have travelled to affected areas.
But the national organization says the chances of transmitting Zika virus via blood transfusion are “very low.”
It suggests that clinics may see a drop in donors in the coming months so it’s asking Canadians to donate before they travel to make up for the anticipated shortfall.
Right now, more than 20 countries across South and Central America and the Caribbean are grappling with an epidemic of Zika virus.
There have been four confirmed cases of Zika virus in Canada – two people in British Columbia, one in Alberta and a newly diagnosed case in Quebec, Canada’s chief public health officer said last week.
WATCH: A World Health Organization spokesman said the public should take normal measures to protect themselves against mosquito bites, but also pointed out scientists should be focused on finding ways to stop the virus from spreading.
All four cases involved Canadians who travelled to countries where the virus is actively circulating.
READ MORE: Should Canadians worry about Zika virus?
Like dengue, West Nile and yellow fever, Zika virus is a mosquito-borne tropical disease, meaning mosquitoes transmit the disease to humans.
Scientists are gathering preliminary research on the potential spread of Zika virus through sexual intercourse or blood transfusions.
Canadian experts told reporters that the virus has been detected in semen for up to two weeks.
“There is only really one published case study of a male traveller who had been to Africa, who came back, and subsequently his wife developed Zika virus infection without travel,” Dr. Theresa Tam, of the Public Health Agency of Canada, said.
By Tuesday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed the country’s first sexually transmitted case of Zika virus after a patient slept with someone who had travelled to an affected region.
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