What I Learned About the Zika Virus When Donating Platelets Earlier Today
While reading those materials, I learned that if you have visited a part of the world where the Zika virus is considered a problem within four weeks of attempting to donate blood or blood products, you will be discouraged from donating and turned away; and in addition to the growing list of countries mostly located in Central America and South America, Dade County in south Florida — which includes the greater Miami metropolitan area — is also on that list.
You read that correctly: if you have visited Dade County within the past four weeks, you cannot donate blood or anything related to your blood.
Currently, the Red Cross is conducting blood donor screening testing for Zika virus under an investigational study in five southeastern states in the U.S. (Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi and South Carolina) that are believed to be at greatest risk of local mosquito transmission of Zika virus in which our collections occur. By September 23, we will expand this testing to five additional states (Arizona, California, New York, Oklahoma and Texas.) The Red Cross does not collect blood in Hawaii, Louisiana or New Mexico. We will continue to work closely with the FDA regarding our timeline for implementing testing in all U.S. states as required by the revised Zika virus guidance.
The Red Cross does not collect blood in South Florida where local cases of Zika virus transmission have been confirmed. All blood donations collected in Florida by the Red Cross (limited to northwestern Florida) are currently tested for Zika virus using the investigational test. Following the advice of the FDA, the Red Cross implemented a donor deferral for those who have traveled to Miami-Dade County during the previous four weeks and will do the same for Palm Beach and other counties that have documented local transmission.
Transmission of Zika Virus by Mosquitos in the United States
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States created an interesting graphic showing that a specific type of mosquito is more likely to spread Zika and other viruses than other types of mosquitoes.
The most effective form of prevention is to proactively protect yourself against mosquito bites — in order to both prevent contracting the Zika virus disease and to prevent its spread if you are already infected — with the following steps:
Use insect repellent
Wear clothes — preferably with light colors — which cover as much of your body as possible
Use physical barriers such as screens, closed doors and windows
Sleep under mosquito nets
Empty, clean or cover containers which can hold water — such as buckets, flower pots or tires — so that places where mosquitoes can breed are removed
Young children, sick people and elderly people are three examples of those who may not be able to protect themselves adequately and could use assistance and special attention
Countries and Territories with Active Zika Virus Transmission
The virus can be expected to spread ever further than it already has, as the mosquitoes which carry it can be found across the following 58 countries and territories with active Zika virus transmission:
Antigua and Barbuda
British Virgin Islands
Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, territory of the United States
I personally prefer donating platelets because I can do so every two weeks — up to a maximum of 24 times per year — as several recipients can benefit from one apheresis donation. It may take a couple of hours of my time, but I can choose to listen to music, watch a movie or get some work done — and I get to drink juice and eat cookies afterwards! Yay! How can anyone not want cookies?!?
More importantly — unlike money or material possessions — donating platelets and blood is the purest and most personal way of literally giving of yourself to a person in need. To be able to save the life of someone somewhere who needs it is quite rewarding for me. I truly believe that alone is worth two hours of my time.
If your beliefs are similar, I strongly encourage you to please donate either whole blood or blood components — but before you do, please be sure to read this discussion on FlyerTalk first pertaining to experiencing any side effects to donating blood. I do not suffer from side effects when I donate — but you might, and I would like for you to be safe and healthy if and when you decide to save the life of someone in need.
Sadly — if there was any disadvantage to extensive travel — it is that you might eventually be in a location considered too risky for donating blood or its components. Unfortunately, donating blood and blood products do not always coincide well with each other, as there are certain areas of the world which are considered at risk — and the spread of the Zika virus only complicates that fact.
Wanting to know why I had not donated platelets via apheresis — something which I have done greater than 125 times — in months as she was preparing me for my double donation of platelets earlier today, I let the phlebotomist know that I had been traveling; and some places which I had visited had reset the clock and extended the year in which I would not be allowed to donate.