As the Zika flavivirus (ZIKV) has spread throughout the Western Hemisphere, reports of severe side effects such as Guillain-Barre syndrome, acute neurological infections, and microcephaly have proliferated. Although the virus is usually transmitted by Aedes mosquitoes, reports of sexual, maternal-fetal, and transfusion-transmission have also been documented. In order to gain a better understanding of the infection in blood donors, researchers in Martinique—an island in the French West Indies of the Caribbean—screened 4129 blood donations during the Zika outbreak in 2016 using nucleic acid testing. Over six months, 1.8% (n=76) of the blood donations were positive for ZIKV, with a peak of 3% near the end of the study. In following a subset of ZIKV positive donors for symptoms, the researchers estimated that 80-85% of infected donors never required medical care, although approximately 55% of them were symptomatic 1 to 6 days after donating blood. Nucleic acid screening or pathogen reduction technology may be necessary to prevent transfusion-transmission of ZIKV.
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- Gallian P, Cabie A, Richard P, Paturel L, Charrel RN, Pastorino B, Leparc-Goffart I, Tiberghien P, de Lamballerie X. Zika virus in asymptomatic blood donors in Martinique. Blood 2017;129: 263-6.