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CBCO to Begin Testing for Zika in November

Dave Herholz

Officials with the Community Blood Center of the Ozarks say they’ve anticipated for some time that they might have to screen donated blood for the Zika virus, which can cause serious birth defects.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said Friday it recommends universal testing of donated whole blood and blood components for Zika virus in the U.S. and its territories.  Previously, the FDA recommended only areas with active Zika transmission screen donated blood.  The Community Blood Center of the Ozarks will begin testing all blood donations for the Zika virus by November 18th.

CBCO spokesman Chris Pilgrim said they’ll be impacted “minimally” except for the increased cost of another test.

"Anytime you've got a new test that is instituted, it does come with a price tag and so, we will look for waYs to finance that," he said.

Pilgrim said they send test tubes of each blood donation to Dallas, Texas to be screened.  He’s not sure how much more they’ll have to pay to have blood screened for Zika.

"There are a number of factors involved, and when we determine that the number of blood centers that decide to go in and test together, perhaps.  Perhaps there's some volume discounts that can be applied there, but we won't know until down the road a little ways," he said.

According to Pilgrim, donors won’t notice anything different except for one more question when they’re preparing to give blood.  They’ll be asked first thing whether they’ve been to Florida in the last 30 days and, in particular, Miami-Dade County, which has had confirmed cases of mosquito-transmitted Zika.  If they have, they’ll be asked to come back in another 30 days and try again.