OneBlood, South Florida’s main blood supplier, started screening all blood donors for the Zika virus last week. But, as experts explains, this safety measure is not infallible and individuals that are concerned about having contracted the virus should abstain from donating blood until they have been tested at clinics or specialized facilities.
Yulanda Ferguson, from Cutler Bay, donates bloods often at a Big Red Bus at the South Dade Government Center but Wednesday was her first time seeing a Zika screening agreement form.
“It’s interesting. I’m glad, because if they’re going to test me, I can see if I have it or not. I’ve been getting bit up by mosquitoes," said Ferguson.
Dr. Rita Reik, OneBlood’s chief medical officer and pathologist, says the virus can exist in the blood 2 to 14 days after mosquito transmission.
But it’s hard to detect.
“You have to bear in mind that about 80 percent of the people who do get Zika from a mosquito don’t have any symptoms at all. That has been our concern with the blood supply side, that a person who looks and feels healthy could come in to donate and actually have Zika," Dr. Reik said.
Though OneBlood provides screening for Zika, Dr. Reik does not encourage people to check for the Zika virus at OneBlood donation centers or its big red buses.
"If you’re worried you might have Zika, you’re better off to be going to a clinic and getting a clinic test," Dr. Reik said.
She says the best places to screen for Zika are medical clinics that provide numerous and more advanced tests, including blood and urine screenings.
"You should only be donating blood if you’re trying to save a life," Dr. Reik said.