Zika Virus Prompts Health Officials to Prevent Travelers from Donating Blood

Announcing that the Zika virus does present a “very low” risk to Canadians, public health officials have urged Canadians who have travelled to affected countries to refrain from donating blood for one month after they return.

In a statement issued by the Chief Public Health Officer of Canada, Dr. Gregory Taylor, it was confirmed on Friday that his department is monitoring the Zika virus outbreak affecting 20 countries in South and Central America, as well as the Caribbean.  Taylor explained that “in the meantime, Canadian Blood Services is asking all potential donors who have recently travelled to places outside Canada, U.S. and Europe to postpone their appointments for one month following their return.” Whereas the deputy Chief Public Health Officer of Canada, Dr. Theresa Tam, elucidated that one-month deferral period was chosen because it’s believed that humans clear their bodies of the virus fairly quickly after infection. It was explained that less than 25 per cent of those infected with Zika develop symptoms, which can include a rash and fever.

Speaking to reporters at the press conference, Taylor stressed that the risk to Canadians from Zika is low. It was explained that “the mosquitoes known to transmit the virus are not established in Canada and are not well suited to our climate. For this reason, the risk to Canadians of Zika virus infection is considered very low.” The statement continued that “although it is possible that persons travelling abroad may contract the virus, the Zika virus does not present a significant public health risk to Canadians.”

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