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All blood donations will now be tested for the Zika virus

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All blood donations in the U.S. should be tested for the Zika virus, the Food and Drug Administration recently announced in a press release.

“As new scientific and epidemiological information regarding Zika virus has become available, it’s clear that additional precautionary measures are necessary,” said Luciana Borio, the FDA’s acting chief scientist, in the release. “We are issuing revised guidance for immediate implementation in order to help maintain the safety of the U.S. blood supply.

Blood donations in Florida and Puerto Rico are already being tested for the virus. Those tests have proven to beneficial by helping doctors identify donations infected with Zika, according to the release. The FDA says it only makes sense to expand testing to reduce the risk of transmission.

States close to areas where local transmission is taking place and states with high rates of travel-related infections will be forced to comply within the next four weeks, reports Reuters. Minnesota is not on that 11 state list. The rest of the country has 12 weeks to comply.

The New York Times says that the recommendations are an acknowledgment that sexual transmission may facilitate the spread of Zika even in places where the infected mosquitoes are not. Officials also want to be prepared if clusters of the virus continue to pop up in the U.S. for years to come, said the newspaper.

“There is still much uncertainty regarding the nature and extent of Zika virus transmission,” Peter Marks, a director at the FDA, said in the release. “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.”

Zika at the Olympics

A total of 12 athletes chose to skip the Olympics in Rio over Zika virus concerns, reported Newsday. They included American golfers Jordan Spieth and Dustin Johnson, as well as cyclist Tejay van Garderen.

Back in June, officials predicted that there would be no more than 16 cases of Zika among the 500,000 spectators and athletes attending the Rio Olympics, reported NPR. 

How many confirmed cases of Zika were there at the Olympics? Well that would be zero, according to the World Health Organization. The announcement came four days after the event's closing ceremonies.

However, NPR points out that it doesn't mean that the virus wasn't transmitted at all during the games. The vast majority of cases go underreported, and about 80 percent of people who get Zika exhibit mild symptoms, if any symptoms at all.

Zika in Minnesota

According the CDC, there have been 31 confirmed cases of Zika in Minnesota, all of them travel-associated cases.

Although it can be passed from human to human, Zika is mostly transmitted via mosquitoes. The only place in the United States where Zika-infected mosquitoes have been found is in Florida.

The Minnesota Department of Health is surveying parts of Southern MN because the Asian tiger mosquito – one of two known carriers of Zika virus – has been known to live there in the past. However, officials don’t think it’s very likely that they will find any. The climate here is too cold for them to survive long-term.

A laboratory in Stillwater was awarded money last week to develop rapid Zika virus tests. You can read more about that here.

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