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All South Texas Blood Donors Will Be Screened For Zika

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Wendy Rigby
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Texas Public Radio
Zika testing has been voluntary for South Texans. Now, it will be mandatory.

For South Texas blood donors, consenting to have your blood screened for Zika will no longer be voluntary. It will be mandatory.

 

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Credit Wendy Rigby / Texas Public Radio
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Texas Public Radio
The FDA is mandating universal screening of donated blood for the Zika virus.

 Today the Food and Drug Administration mandated the entire donated blood supply be screened for the emerging mosquito-borne virus.

 

The lifeblood of the South Texas medical community is donated blood. There’s no substitute for human blood, but it has to be screened to keep patients who receive that blood safe.

<span style="'&quot;&quot;font-size:14.0pt;line-height:115%&quot;&quot;'">If they don't consent, they can't donate. ~ Dr. Samantha Gomez, South Texas Blood and Tissue Center</span>

In July, San Antonio’s South Texas Blood and Tissue Center started testing for Zika if patients consented. Now, it’s no longer an option. It’s a directive.

"In four weeks, if you don’t consent to the Zika test, you can’t donate," said 

Dr. Samantha Gomez, Associate Medical Director of the Blood Center. She calls the FDA’s decision “proactive.” The blood center has screened tens of thousands of blood donations for Zika in the last 6 weeks. None has come back positive. But it’s not out of the question.

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Credit Wendy Rigby / Texas Public Radio
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Texas Public Radio
San Antonio's South Texas Blood and Tissue Center has been screening blood donors who consent to a Zika test since July 6, 2016.

  

"We keep learning more and more about Zika virus every single day," Gomez explained.

What’s known is that Zika is an enormous threat to unborn babies of infected mothers.

"I think our educational initiatives will help us increase the number of consenting donors," Gomez said, "because at the end of the day if they don’t consent they can’t donate."

Texas and 10 other states along the Gulf Coast are required to have these Zika screening measures in place in four weeks.

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Credit Wendy Rigby / Texas Public Radio
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Texas Public Radio
Donors who don't consent to a Zika virus screening will not be allowed to donate.

University Hospital also operates its own blood bank. A spokesman for that facility said late today the hospital has plans to have Zika screening in place by the deadline.

Wendy Rigby is a San Antonio native who has worked as a journalist for more than 25 years. She spent two decades at KENS-TV covering health and medical news. Now, she brings her considerable background, experience and passion to Texas Public Radio.