Blood Bank of Hawaii keeps watch on possible Zika virus threat

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The Blood Bank of Hawaii is taking extra precautions to make sure its blood supply is free of diseases like Zika and dengue fever. It’s taking a multi-pronged approach when it comes to the safety of its donated blood.

With the dengue fever outbreak winding down on Hawaii Island, the blood bank has resumed all of its normal blood collecting operations.

But with a very real threat of the Zika virus, the bank’s medical director Dr. Randal B. Covin said they’re still keeping a close eye on things.

“The Zika virus is something that we are very concerned about now we know that there are outbreaks around the world, including places where people travel to,” he said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there have been seven travel-associated cases of Zika in Hawaii as of May 11, and with the blood bank needing 150 to 200 people to donate every day, they’re making sure to take every precaution to keep the blood supply safe.

“The first prong is already put in place that has to do with our donor screening,” Covin said, “so now we have updated our donor education materials. We know to ask a question about the Zika virus if they have traveled abroad.”

Along with an updated donor questionnaire, any blood that is taken in is sent out for testing before being put into the permanent supply. This is just another way to make sure the lifesaving blood is safe.

“We also have a look-back process should we get information from the donor after they were feeling not well to see if there is something worth happening there,” Covin said. “If necessary, we can go back and treat that blood. In addition, we get audited by the federal government — the branch that looks oversees the FDA — and also professional groups like the American Association of Blood Banks.”

So far, there haven’t been any locally acquired Zika cases in the United States, but there have been just over 500 travel related cases reported

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