Hawaii’s blood supply is about to undergo additional testing for safety.
The Blood Bank of Hawaii says it is participating in a new screening procedure for donations to ensure that all blood is free of the Zika virus.
Zika is transmitted through mosquito bites, sexual contact and potentially blood transfusion. Infection can cause miscarriages, severe birth defects, and death.
Blood bank officials say their concern is high since the same mosquito that transmits dengue fever — as seen in a recent Hawaii Island outbreak — can also transmit Zika.
“Should Hawaii become a Zika risk area, (without the additional testing) it’s possible that we might have to completely shut down all blood collection, and then Hawaii would be 100-percent dependent on imported blood from the mainland,” explained Dr. Randal Covin, medical director, Blood Bank of Hawaii. “Which is why we want to bring testing in, that way we can prevent something like that from happening. So it’s really a measure of protecting the people of Hawaii to make sure we can continue to collect, process and distribute blood.”
Covin stresses that if a donor tests positive, it doesn’t immediately mean that he or she actually has Zika.
“Additional testing is going to be done on mainland. Those results will come to us and we make sure to pass that along to donor,” Covin said. “In addition, we’ve been working very closely with the state Department of Health, so they’ll also be notified, and then the investigation can begin.”
Covin says other than additional informational material and a change in form, donors shouldn’t notice anything different.
“Their normal donation process will go the same as it always has. Really the only change is going to be back here at the Blood Bank of Hawaii, and even that’s going to be not that much different than what we normally do,” Covin said. “All the samples of blood for testing are going to be sent off to our usual testing lab, and it’s there that they will perform that extra test… The results will come back through our computer system like all of our other test results do.”
The additional screening is expected to begin on all BBH donations on Sept. 6.