Blood Bank of Hawaii makes sure blood supply safe from Zika virus

Blood banks across the country are taking precautions against the Zika virus after two probable transfusion-related cases in Brazil.

If you walk into the Blood Bank of Hawaii on Young Street, you’ll see a Zika virus alert that asks donors to disclose their recent travel history.

Officials say this is just another measure of security to keep its blood supply safe, a step implemented earlier this week.

Dr. Randal Covin, the blood bank’s medical director, says the current blood supply is the safest it’s ever been and that these new measures to protect against Zika are just another step in making sure it stays that way.

“We know that some people that have the infection don’t have any symptoms, so in conjunction with the AABB and blood centers across the country, we’ve added an extra layer of protection,” he said.

The blood bank is asking people that have travelled to Mexico, Central America, the Pacific Islands, the Caribbean, or South America not to donate blood for at least the first 28 days that they’re back in the United States.

Covin says the Blood Bank of Hawaii has also been taking preventative measures when it comes to the dengue fever outbreak on Hawaii Island.

“Donors who live in areas that are considered high risk for dengue virus — and that’s usually defined by the state Department of Health — we’re actually deferring them from donating, too.”

As for the new measures surrounding the Zika virus, Covin says it’s too early to tell if it will keep people from donating.

Jessica Nohara, who donates a few times a year, says she saw the signs but has always felt safe donating at the Blood Bank of Hawaii. “I definitely think that’s an important step to take, and I think the blood bank has always been cautious, and I feel good coming here,” she said.

“The major risk is the possibility of not having enough blood on the shelves when somebody needs it,” Covin said. “That’s a real risk and a big concern.”

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