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Florida Shipping Blood To Puerto Rico Where Zika Cases Are Rising

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The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

Florida blood centers are shipping blood to Puerto Rico because of concerns about transmitting Zika virus from transfusions. A plan is in place if Florida starts seeing locally-caught Zika virus.

Florida already has more than 50 cases of Zika virus, but none of them were transmitted by local mosquitos. They were caught while traveling to countries where the outbreak is ongoing.

Officials confirmed the state's first case of sexually transmitted Zika virus last week in Polk County.

Officials do expect some Zika cases to be spread locally in Florida and the southeast, where Yellow Fever mosquitoes are found. And if that happens, FDA guidelines say whole blood and blood components should come from areas without the virus.

OneBlood’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Rita Reik said the blood bank tested a plan to keep similar viruses out of the blood supply by quarantining donations at the zip code level.

“That worked very well. We had no transfusion transmitted case and no shortage of the blood supply,” said Reik.

The blood bank is also asking donors about their travel to areas where Zika is being spread.

Zika is a mild virus in adults, but it has been linked to severe birth defects if caught by a pregnant mother. Researchers are also studying a link between Zika and a rare, often temporary paralysis called Guillain-Barre.

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Reporter Abe Aboraya is part of WMFE in Orlando. WMFE is a partner with Health News Florida, which receives support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Health News Florida reporter Abe Aboraya works for WMFE in Orlando. He started writing for newspapers in high school. After graduating from the University of Central Florida in 2007, he spent a year traveling and working as a freelance reporter for the Seattle Times and the Seattle Weekly, and working for local news websites in the San Francisco Bay area. Most recently Abe worked as a reporter for the Orlando Business Journal. He comes from a family of health care workers.