Florida officials and Tampa Bay blood banks stepping up fight against Zika

Florida officials and Tampa Bay blood banks stepping up fight against Zika

AP file photo

SARASOTA COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – Florida health officials are looking into a possible second case of non-travel-related Zika. The investigation is ongoing but neither of the infected patients appears to have traveled to a Zika-affected country.

This has government officials and blood banks on alert.

Governor Rick Scott went to Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport to talk about the latest efforts to fight this threat. With so many travelers coming in and out of Florida this time of year, Governor Scott wanted to make sure airports are prepared.

RELATED: OneBlood to start testing for Zika in August

Governor Scott is not taking any chances. He said, “My issue is to make sure we’re ready for Zika.”

Governor Scott says the state has already committed $26.5 million to combat this disease. But he needs more money to fund mosquito control departments and to buy more CDC testing kits. This week, President Obama promised Scott an additional $5.6 million.

Governor Scott said, “This is not just a state issue, we’re the tip of the spear for the United States, this is a national issue. So I’m disappointed that Congress hasn’t funded anything, I’m disappointed the president hasn’t done more.”

Blood banks are doing what they can to help. Starting Aug. 1, all OneBlood donation centers across the state will offer Zika screenings to donors.

OneBlood Chief Medical Officer Dr. Rita Reik said, “We don’t know everything there is to know about this disease yet.”

It’s an experimental program OneBlood is doing for the FDA. If donors consent to the screening, their blood will be taken to this state of the art center in St. Petersburg, where within 12 to 24 hours, the device can determine whether the virus is in the blood. The tested blood will be given to pregnant women in hospitals.

Dr. Reik said, “Until we feel we have a handle on every possible way you could pick up this virus, it’s just safer to screen the blood.”

Right now the program is experimental and awaiting full FDA approval. Depending on the success of these Zika screenings, this program may be expanded.

Officials say 80 percent of Zika patients don’t show any symptoms so it’s vital to take every precaution to keep people safe.

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