Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center asks Latin America travelers not to donate

Tuesday, February 2, 2016
Zika virus
A researcher holds a container with female Aedes aegypti mosquitoes at the Biomedical Sciences Institute in the Sao Paulo's University, in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Monday, Jan. 18, 2016.
AP Photo/Andre Penner

HOUSTON -- Donors are the lifeline at the Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center.

"I started donating after 9/11. It's something I can do," blood donor Patti Craig said.

Before they get started, they must take an important questionaire, and now the Zika virus is a part of it. Added to the existing list that includes questions on topics from malaria to mad cow disease.

"The people who get the blood need it because they have some sort of illness or they need extra blood, so I would hate to think that I would transmit something to someone even inadvertently and that's why I always pay attention to the questions when I'm answering them," Craig said.

Dr. Susan Rossmann says the majority of people infected with Zika virus don't even exhibit symptoms. So donors who have traveled to affected regions the past 28 days are being asked not to donate out of concern for the safety of those receiving transfusions.

"We don't really know how much this is going to influence our donations. Usually we try to study these things before we make a change but this has been moving so rapidly that we really don't know in Houston what kind of a difference it will make," Dr. Rossmann said.

Spring break travel may have an impact, too. While cases of Zika being transmitted through blood transfusions have not been studied extensively, health officials here will take no chances. And some donors say the same thing about travel.

"Just came back from Miami and that's as far as I'm going to go for a while," blood donor Andy Kogut said.

Zika symptoms diagnosis and treatment from the CDC


  • About 1 in 5 people infected with Zika virus become ill (i.e., develop Zika).
  • The most common symptoms of Zika are fever, rash, joint pain, or conjunctivitis (red eyes). Other common symptoms include muscle pain and headache. The incubation period (the time from exposure to symptoms) for Zika virus disease is not known, but is likely to be a few days to a week.
  • The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting for several days to a week.
  • Zika virus usually remains in the blood of an infected person for a few days but it can be found longer in some people.
  • Severe disease requiring hospitalization is uncommon.
  • Deaths are rare.


  • The symptoms of Zika are similar to those of dengue and chikungunya, diseases spread through the same mosquitoes that transmit Zika.
  • See your healthcare provider if you develop the symptoms described above and have visited an area where Zika is found.
  • If you have recently traveled, tell your healthcare provider when and where you traveled.
  • Your healthcare provider may order blood tests to look for Zika or other similar viruses like dengue or chikungunya.


  • No vaccine or medications are available to prevent or treat Zika infections.

Treat the symptoms:

  • Drink fluids to prevent dehydration
  • Take medicines, such as acetaminophen or paracetamol, to relieve fever and pain
  • Do not take aspirin and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), like ibuprofen and naproxen. Aspirin and NSAIDs should be avoided until dengue can be ruled out to reduce the risk of hemorrhage (bleeding). If you are taking medicine for another medical condition, talk to your healthcare provider before taking additional medication.
  • If you have Zika, avoid mosquito bites for the first week of your illness.