This AFP file photo taken on January 25, 2016 shows an Aedes Aegypti mosquito photographed on human skin in a lab in Cali, Colombia.
officials in the United States
have called on blood banks to screen all blood donations for the Zika
virus, amid a mounting outbreak of the mosquito-borne infection across the country.
“There is still much uncertainty regarding the nature and extent of Zika virus transmission,” Peter Marks, director of the US
Food and Drug Administration (FDA), said in a statement on Friday.
“At this time, the recommendation for testing the entire blood supply will help ensure that safe blood is available for all individuals who might need transfusion,” he added.
The move expands the guidance to all US states and territories, as opposed to a previous one that only recommended screening in areas with active Zika cases.
“The FDA is updating its guidance after careful consideration of all available scientific evidence, consultation with other public health agencies, and taking into consideration the potential serious health consequences of Zika virus infection to pregnant women and children born to women exposed to Zika virus during pregnancy,” Marks noted.
“Expanded testing will continue to reduce the risk for transmission of Zika virus through the US blood supply and will be in effect until the risk of transfusion transmission of Zika virus is reduced,” he concluded.
A health worker prepares insecticide before fumigating a neighborhood in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on January 27, 2016. (Reuters photo)
The Zika outbreak was first detected last year in Brazil and since then the virus has been reported in more than 30 countries.
Over 2,500 people in the US have been diagnosed with the infection, and more than 9,000 in the US territories such as Puerto Rico, with most of those cases brought in by people who were infected while traveling abroad.
The United States
reported its first locally transmitted Zika virus in Florida in July.
The virus is primarily spread by mosquitoes, but can also be transmitted by sexual contact, prompting health officials to advise that people who have been infected refrain from unprotected sex for several months.
Zika can cause microcephaly, a birth defect marked by abnormally small head size and developmental problems in babies.