While there’s no risk of local Zika virus transmission, the local blood supply is being impacted by the disease outbreak.
The blood supply at Bloodworks Northwest — which supplies blood for hospitals throughout Washington, Oregon and Alaska, including both to Vancouver hospitals — has reached critical levels. The blood supplier has only a two-day supply.
Bloodworks officials are pointing to three reasons for the shortage: the impact of the Zika outbreak; new blood donor screening measures due to the Zika outbreak; and a drop-off in donations at local centers.
The Zika virus, which has been linked to birth defects, is spread primarily through mosquito bites. The mosquito species that transmit the virus are not found in the Northwest. But Zika can be transmitted through blood transfusions, from a pregnant woman to her unborn baby and through sexual contact.
The Food and Drug Administration has recommended that the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico, where the Zika virus is being transmitted, should import whole blood and red cells from regions without an outbreak.
You can help: Blood donations
What: Bloodworks Northwest blood donations.
Where: Vancouver Donor Center, 9320 N.E. Vancouver Mall Drive, Suite 100, Vancouver.
When: 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays; 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesdays; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursdays; 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.
Appointments: Call 800-398-7888 or visit schedule.bloodworksnw.org.
“To help respond to this emergency, we sent our first shipment of red blood cells to Puerto Rico on March 4 and are preparing to ship platelets later this week,” said Dr. James P. AuBuchon, president and CEO of Bloodworks Northwest, in a news release.
In addition, Bloodworks is implementing new donor screening measures to ensure the safety of the regional blood supply.
People who have traveled to areas with active Zika transmission are being asked to wait at least 28 days after their return to the U.S. before donating blood. FDA guidelines also define longer deferral periods for people who have been infected with the virus or who have had sexual contact with someone who has traveled or resided in Zika-active areas.
About 2 to 3 percent of local blood donors will be affected by the new deferral measures, according to Bloodworks Northwest.
Those two issues, coupled with local blood donations below normal seasonal averages, has led Bloodworks Northwest to appeal for new donors.
Bloodworks is asking first-time donors and those who haven’t donated lately — and who have not traveled to areas of active Zika transmission — to schedule an appointment to donate. There is a special need for O-negative and A-negative blood types.
Bloodworks Northwest’s Vancouver Donor Center is at 9320 N.E. Vancouver Mall Drive, Suite 100. Appointments can be made online, schedule.bloodworksnw.org, or by calling 800-398-7888. Walk-ins are also welcome.
“We can never know when emergencies like the Zika virus might happen, but our ability to respond immediately when they do is made possible by dedicated blood donors and strong community support,” AuBuchon said in the news release.