Trans­fu­sions blamed for two cases of Zika

Still, of­fi­cial says, mos­qui­toes are the real threat in spread­ing virus

The Washington Post - - POLITICS & THE NATION - BY DOM PHILLIPS AND ANA EUNJUNG CHA dom. phillips@wash­ ari­ana.cha@wash­ More at wash­ing­ton­ blogs/ to-your-health

A blood bank in the Brazil­ian city of Camp­inas has con­firmed that two peo­ple were in­fected with the Zika virus af­ter trans­fu­sions there last year. It is the first time that trans­mis­sion of the dis­ease has been linked to blood trans­fu­sions.

Brazil is in the midst of a Zika out­break that the govern­ment has linked to a rise in the num­ber of ba­bies born with mi­cro­cephaly — a birth de­fect char­ac­ter­ized by an ab­nor­mally small head and of­ten mo­tor and learn­ing dif­fi­cul­ties.

Marcelo Car­valho, di­rec­tor of the hemother­apy divi­sion at the Camp­inas blood cen­ter, a rel­a­tively wealthy city near Sao Paulo, re­ported the two cases of Zika in­fec­tions caused by blood trans­fu­sions, which oc­curred in the first part of last year.

In one case, a pa­tient re­ceived a trans­fu­sion in March. Days af­ter giv­ing blood, the donor re­ported ex­pe­ri­enc­ing dengue-like symp­toms. Af­ter an in­ves­ti­ga­tion, both he and a man who had re­ceived the trans­fu­sion were found to have Zika.

“It was just a lab­o­ra­tory in­fec­tion. There was no clin­i­cal man­i­fes­ta­tion,” Car­valho said of the trans­fu­sion re­cip­i­ent. The Brazil­ian govern­ment says peo­ple who get Zika usu­ally show few, if any, symp­toms.

An­other case of trans­mis­sion by blood trans­fu­sion took place in Fe­bru­ary 2015 in a hos­pi­tal run by the Univer­sity of Camp­inas, which also runs the blood bank. A man who had been shot is be­lieved to have caught Zika from one of about 100 blood trans­fu­sions he re­ceived dur­ing three months at the hos­pi­tal, Car­valho said.

“He got fever. He had var­i­ous in­fec­tions dur­ing in­tern­ment, mul­ti­ple or­gans failed, he got very sick,” Car­valho said. Dengue was sus­pected, but re­sults of a test of his blood that came back in De­cem­ber showed Zika. The pa­tient died of the gun­shot wounds. Last month, a test on the donor showed Zika.

“The donor was con­tacted and said that days af­ter the do­na­tion he pre­sented symp­toms com­pa­ra­ble with Zika and he re­cov­ered well with­out any com­pli­ca­tions,” Car­valho said.

He said new pro­ce­dures had re­duced the risk of pa­tients get­ting Zika from blood trans­fu­sions.

“All the ac­tions, as much gov­ern­men­tal as by so­ci­ety, should be fo­cused on the con­trol of the vec­tor, the mos­quito,” Car­valho said. “The risk of trans­mis­sion by trans­fu­sion is mil­lions of times less than the risk of trans­mis­sion by the mos­quito.”

Wor­ries about Zika in the blood sup­ply have been a grow­ing con­cern for health of­fi­cials around the world. The Amer­i­can Red Cross and health of­fi­cials in Canada and Bri­tain have been urg­ing peo­ple who have trav­eled to re­gions af­fected by the Zika virus to wait at least four weeks be­fore giv­ing blood.

Of­fi­cials at the Food and Drug Ad­min­is­tra­tion said this week that they are as­sess­ing whether trav­el­ers who have vis­ited places with lo­cal Zika trans­mis­sion should de­fer do­nat­ing blood. The FDA did not im­me­di­ately re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment Thurs­day.

The Amer­i­can As­so­ci­a­tion of Blood Banks, the pro­fes­sional stan­dards group, said that its 28day self-de­fer­ral rec­om­men­da­tion also ap­plies to other trop­i­cal viruses, such as dengue and chikun­gunya, and that it should re­sult in only mi­nor de­creases — about 2.25 per­cent — in over­all do­na­tions of blood.

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