Travellers Banned from Donating Blood for 28 Days After Travelling

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Wednesday, February 3rd, 2016

Travellers have been banned by the NHS from donating blood for 28 days after returning from countries infected by the Zika virus. This is amid fears the disease could be passed on through blood transfusions.

An NHS Blood and Transplant spokesman said that they are deferring people from donating blood for 28 days after they have visited a Zika infected country. He said most of the Zika affected countries already have a similar deferral due to other diseases, so NHS Blood and Transplant expect it to have a minimal effect.

The new NHS organ donation guidance warns that there are reports of possible Zika virus transmissions through blood transfusion and it is probable that the infection could also be transmitted by organ transplantation.

Doctors have also been warned not to transplant organs from those who have recently travelled to countries if they are showing any symptoms of the virus. A ban is now in place on the use of organs from living donors who have tested positive for Zika, or from people who have died whilst infected with the virus.

Health workers will ask families if deceased relatives have visited areas affected by the Zika virus or were bitten by a mosquito before they passed.

About 80 percent of Zika infections are asymptomatic, so it’s possible for people to catch the virus without realising. Most people catch it through a bite from a mosquito known as aedes aegypti, which is a common insect in equatorial regions. However it has been discovered further north, in southern states of America and further south, in Queensland, Australia.

The virus is most dangerous for women who are pregnant and they risk passing it on to their baby. More than 4,000 babies have been born with a disorder called microcephaly since the outbreak in Latin America. Microcephaly causes problems with brain development in the womb, leading to an abnormally small head.

Public Health England are currently warning couples not to try for a baby for up to six months if either of them discover fever or unexplained rash whilst travelling to Zika affected countries. Men have been advised to wear a condom for the first 28 days after returning from one of the 25 countries, even if they show no symptoms.

The World Health Organization’s European chief has warned that the risk of Zika virus spreading into Europe became higher with the onset of the spring and summer months. Disease experts warn that the aedes aegypti mosquito has been known to reach Britain aboard ships and is able to survive for several days during hot summers.

Heatwaves in the summer could also cause the mosquito to move into popular holiday destinations in the south of Europe.

So far, six people in Britain have been diagnosed with Zika after travelling to infected countries and two adults have been diagnosed in Ireland this week. In America, a woman was found to have contacted the virus through sexual intercourse.