The blood bank that serves Sarasota and Manatee Counties now is joining other blood banks in testing donors for the Zika virus, which has been linked to birth defects such as microcephaly.
SunCoast Blood Bank spokeswoman Jayne Giroux said it is a small blood bank and gets on average about 150 donors a day. It serves hospitals in Sarasota, Manatee, Charlotte and DeSoto counties.
The blood bank joins larger donation centers such as OneBlood in testing its donations for the virus. Giroux said that aside from the additional paperwork, people who've donated before aren't likely to notice much difference with the additional testing.
"It's still just one stick, not a separate blood test, it's all done at the same time we take the sample for your regular testing," she said. "And we'll still test you every time, no matter if you've donated one time or a hundred times."
Giroux said the testing will ensure the safety of the blood supply, while allowing SunCoast Blood Bank to avoid a "blanket deferral" for platelet donors who have traveled to countries Zika is more prevelant.
Last week, state health officials diagnosed the first cases of people who contracted Zika within the state. So far, all of the cases have been in South Florida, in Miami Dade, Broward and Palm Beach Counties. The number of cases transmitted locally so far is up to 16.