With the nation’s first suspected local outbreak of Zika infection under investigation in South Florida, the Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday requested that all blood banks in Miami-Dade and Broward counties stop collecting immediately until donations can be tested for the virus.
Blood banks in the two counties said they would begin screening donations for Zika virus using an FDA approved test beginning Friday, but it was unclear whether or when collections in South Florida had ceased Thursday.
OneBlood, a nonprofit with six centers in Broward and five in Miami-Dade, issued a written statement that the agency received notice of the FDA’s request only after they had already begun collecting Thursday.
“OneBlood is working as quickly as possible to comply with the FDA’s request,” said the statement from spokesman Pat Michaels, who added that earlier this week the agency suspended collections in “a number of areas in South Florida” where the suspected cases are under investigation.
Area hospitals were not expected to be impacted by the temporary suspension of blood collection. Jackson Health System, Miami-Dade’s public hospital network, had not received notice that blood supplies would be limited, spokeswoman Jennifer Piedra said.
“We do not anticipate it will impact operations at our hospitals,” she said.
One Blood, which supplies blood to more than 200 hospitals in most of Florida and parts of Georgia, Alabama and South Carolina, said all of the agency’s sites would begin testing for Zika on Friday.
Michaels did not respond to questions about the exact date when OneBlood stopped collecting in areas where the Florida Department of Health has been investigating four suspected cases of locally transmitted Zika infections.
The health department reported two new travel-related cases Thursday, both involving pregnant women, raising the statewide total to 383 people who have contracted the virus this year, including 55 expectant mothers.
Pregnant women are considered to be at the greatest risk from the Zika virus because it can cause microcephaly and other birth defects.
In Miami-Dade and Broward, which have the most confirmed Zika infections in Florida, state health investigators and medical epidemiologists from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are interviewing residents in areas where the four infected people live, work and spend their free time. They’re also collecting urine samples from neighbors and trapping mosquitoes in the area to test for the Zika virus.
For questions about Zika, including health impacts, call the Florida health department hotline at 855-622-6735.
Zika cases reported in Florida as of July 28
Number of Cases
Total cases not involving pregnant women
Cases involving pregnant women regardless of symptoms*
* Counties of pregnant women not disclosed.
** Does not included suspected cases of local transmission.
Source: Florida Department of Health