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Changing blood collection procedures in wake of Zika virus

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ST. LOUIS (KTVI) – Mississippi Valley Regional Blood Center (MVRBC) officials have a new question for would-be blood donors. Actually, it’s a statement in response to Zika.

“If you have travelled to Miami-Dade or Broward counties in Florida during the last 28 days, we are asking you not to donate today,” said Charles Lucier, MVRBC’s associate donor relations consultant.

“Twenty-eight days is the time period during which the virus would work its way through and it would not be contagious or spread-able through a blood transfusion.”

Lucier said organizations like Mississippi Valley Regional Blood Center make such changes based on FDA regulations.

“There are a number of people who advise the FDA, part of which is the industry itself,” he said.

Lucier said historically, similar blood donor-screening changes have been made for AIDS, Mad Cow Disease, West Nile Virus, and the avian flu.

Mississippi Valley gets much of its donated blood during the school year. Officials are battling the slow summer months with an incentive program.

“Actually we're giving away a car,” Lucier said. “For anybody who comes in between May 1 and the end of September, they are automatically entered into that drawing. Each month during the last couple months including September, we're giving away a $300 gas card to encourage them to come in. Again, it doesn't matter whether they are able to donate or not, as long as they get registered they are automatically entered into the drawing.”

Red Cross officials said they are not collecting blood in that affected part of south Florida.

The Red Cross released a statement July 29, which reads, in part, “... on August 1, the Red Cross will implement a donor deferral for those who have traveled to Miami-Dade and Broward Counties during the previous four weeks.”

Red Cross officials say they have added a specific question to their donor health history questionnaire, asking people if they are at-risk of Zika virus exposure.