Zika Virus and other similar viruses – Héma-Québec implements a new measure to ensure the safety of blood products

Montréal, February 3, 2016 – Starting Sunday, February 7, blood donors returning from trips abroad will have to satisfy a new blood donation eligibility criterion. This measure concerns not only the risks associated with the Zika virus, but also other similar viruses. It applies in particular to Dengue fever and Chikungunya.

In order to identify the individuals likely to present a risk with respect to these infections, a new question has been added to the questionnaire that donors must complete. From now on, in order to preserve the safety of blood products, anyone who has travelled to any destination other than the continental United States and Europe must wait 21 days after returning to Canada before making a blood donation.

This precautionary measure will prevent people who may have contracted these infections in the countries concerned from making a donation while they still carry the virus, which may be the case for several days after they return from their trip. Although this risk is considered minimal and such situations have never occurred in Québec, Héma-Québec has opted to take a proactive approach that covers the regions of the planet where other emerging infections of this nature are likely to occur on a large scale.

Héma-Québec estimates that less than 2% of the donors will be affected by this new measure and that adopting it will have no impact on the level of the collective blood supply.

“The safety of the blood product supply for Quebecers is a priority at all times. For this reason, we closely monitor the emergence of new diseases that can be transmitted by blood and we do not hesitate to apply the necessary precautionary measures in order to make sure our blood products are safe,” said Serge Maltais, President and CEO of Héma-Québec.  

Zika and blood transfusion

The Zika virus is transmitted principally through mosquito bites. The Center for Disease Control has indicated that the Zika virus can be transmitted by blood. The agency has also identified a report of transmission through blood transfusion in Brazil. No case of transmission by transfusion has been reported in Québec.

The two mosquitoes that are vectors for the virus (Aedes albopictus and Aedes aegypti) are not present in Québec. These two mosquitoes are also the principal vectors for Chikungunya and Dengue fever, two pathogens which Héma-Québec has been monitoring vigilantly for several years.

It should be noted that, before adopting this new eligibility criteria, Héma-Québec has, since January 29, been asking individuals who have travelled recently to the zones identified as high risk for the Zika virus (Mexico, Central America, South America, Caribbean and Cap-Vert) to wait 30 days after returning to Canada before going to a blood collection site. The new measure replaces this recommendation.

About Héma-Québec

Héma-Québec’s mission is to efficiently meet the needs of the Québec population for safe, optimal-quality blood and blood products, human tissues, cord blood, mother’s milk and cellular products; and to develop and provide expertise and specialized, innovative services in the field of human biological products. Héma-Québec encompasses 1,300 employees, over 300,000 donor visits to blood drives per year, 16,000 volunteers and more than 500,000 blood products delivered annually to Québec hospitals to meet the needs of patients. Give blood. Give life.

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