Zika virus changes local blood donation requirements

April 4, 2016

Kyle Guthrie
[email protected]

There may be some bad blood on campus, but it doesn’t stem from any rivalries.

The Zika virus can cause an infection known as Zika fever. Symptoms include fever, rash, muscle or joint pain, eye pain or redness and headaches, and can be dangerous if left untreated. The virus can spread through mosquito bites, blood donations, sexual intercourse or from a pregnant mother to baby.

The recent spread of the virus to parts of South America, Mexico and the Caribbean has health officials at the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention concerned, particularly when dealing with blood donations from college campuses such as UCCS.

As a result, local blood drives are tightening the reins on their donations, having to add new criteria that donors must meet.

Morgan Dunmire, the Colorado Springs community donor representative for Bonfils Blood Center, said that the FDA updated their deferral policy in March so that anyone who traveled to the Caribbean, Mexico, Pacific Islands or other countries with the virus cannot donate blood until 28 days after returning to the U.S.

This means students who traveled to equatorial countries, namely during spring break, are at risk of exposure to the virus and can be deferred.

“Obviously our number one goal is to ensure that the blood supply is safe,” Dunmire said. “As much as we agree with it though, it is difficult. The amount of deferrals we could see could be enormous … especially for a college.”

Dunmire said that while traveling to a sunny, foreign beach is a good way to get barred from donating, the stipulations don’t stop there.

On March 14, the FDA indicated that if you had sexual contact with anyone who traveled to any Zika virus areas in the past three months, you would also be deferred.

The stipulations have been put in place due to the communicability of the disease in equatorial locations such as South American countries and Caribbean islands, according to Dunmire.

Local students returning from out of the country are not the only ones at risk, however, as UCCS hosts several exchange students from equatorial countries.

Exchange students such as Vinicius Alverenga, a senior majoring in electrical engineering, are also at risk from their home countries.

“I live in Brazil, but I came here in August to study,” Alverenga said. “I plan on going back after the semester.”

The CDC and FDA hope that by instituting these deferments, they can keep the donor blood supply Zika-free.

Even with the new policies, Dunmire said Bonfils encourages students to donate blood at one of its upcoming events. There will be blood drives on April 11, 12 and 20 in University Center room 116.