Mid-Missouri doctors agree with FDA blood recommendations

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COLUMBIA — The FDA now recommends screening blood and its components for Zika as it begins to hit the United States. In mid-Missouri, health officials agree the additional testing is the right course of action in preventing the spread of the virus.

“Part of the reason why they have the recommendation is that they noticed a delay between the first case in Florida to when additional cases were picked up," said Dr. Christelle Ilboudo, who specializes in infectious diseases at MU Health.

Ilboudo also said the testing is essential as countries who have more industrialized medical procedures, such as the United States, are learning about the incubation period of the disease.

“Really, this is the first time we’ve been able to study the virus so extensively because we have the resources. There’s still debate as to how long someone has the virus in their blood when they get infected," Ilboudo said.

Pregnant women are most at risk for Zika because it slows down brain growth in unborn babies, causing developmental problems. Those who also have chronic illnesses are more susceptible to complications from the disease. 

Previously, the blood screening recommendation only applied to areas more prone to the virus, such as Haiti and Puerto Rico. Now, donation centers like the American Red Cross are trying to understand the virus. 

"Currently, the Red Cross is conducting blood donor tests for Zika virus under an investigational study in five southeastern states in the U.S. that are believed to be at greatest risk of local mosquito transmission of Zika virus in which our collections occur. Over the next two weeks, we will expand this testing to four additional states in the south central and southwestern U.S.," said Dr. Susan Stramer, vice president of Scientific Affairs at the American Red Cross.

Destiny Vandeventer, a Columbia resident who recently gave plasma, thinks the screening will cause more worry than necessary for blood donations. 

“I actually think that it will (cause concern), due to all the chaos it might bring once it hits Missouri or even closer to us,” Vandeventer said. 

Symptoms of Zika virus are flu-like and can last up to two weeks. However, only 1 in 5 of those infected actually show symptoms of the disease. 

“In the Pacific Islands, specifically French Polynesia, when they had the outbreak in 2012/2013, there were some cases related to blood transfusion and blood donations. This is absolutely something we need to do at this time," Ilboudo said. 

Although there are currently no cases of mosquitoes in Missouri transmitting Zika, Ilboudo said cases popping up other states, such as Florida, are a good reason to have concern.