Travelled to a Zika outbreak region? You can’t donate blood for 120 days

By: Jyoti Shellar

 

NBTC mandates blood banks to check person’s travel history

Mumbai: People who have travelled to regions where there has been an outbreak of Zika virus cannot donate blood up to 120 days of their return.

In a set of guidelines issued recently by the National Blood Transfusion Council (NBTC), blood banks have been asked to inquire about the donor’s travel history. In case the donor has visited such places, blood banks have to be assured that the person is asymptomatic for the 120-day period.

Zika virus is transmitted through a bite of infected aedes aegypti mosquito and is associated with Guillain-Barré syndrome and microcephaly (babies born with smaller heads). The virus has been reported in nearly 80 countries including India. In 2017, the first three cases of Zika were reported in Gujarat and later in Tamil Nadu. The latest outbreak has been in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh.

“We are in the process of circulating the guidelines to all the blood banks. We are also looking at providing a list of Indian regions and other countries who have reported outbreaks so that the people who are collecting blood are aware,” Dr. Arun Thorat, head of State Blood Transfusion Council in Maharashtra, said.

The NBTC guidelines also said blood banks should not accept blood from donors till two weeks following complete recovery from acute viral infections and cessation of any therapy or medication. Donors are also mandated to report to the blood bank if they develop signs of Zika infection within two weeks of blood donation. The NBTC has also warned against importing human plasma from Zika outbreak regions and countries.

Zika presents with fever, rashes, joint pain, headache. Conjunctivitis is also seen in some cases. The main concern with the infection is associated with pregnant women as neurological complications occur in their newborns.

“All blood bank staff are cautious about such rules. We had circulated similar guidelines a while ago. After the recent NBTC notification, we are re-circulating them,” Dr. Thorat said, adding the guidelines on blood collection and donation were discussed in the joint monitoring group meeting last month.

 

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