SC to Begin Screening Blood Donors for Zika

From Allison Roberts with the Spartanburg Herald-Journal

August 27, 2016

The full story can be found here. 

South Carolina will be among the first 11 states to screen blood donations for the Zika virus as part of a new U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommendation issued Friday.

The directive, which seeks to protect blood recipients from becoming infected with the mosquito-borne illness, will eventually be expanded to all 50 states and U.S. territories. States most at risk for transmission due to location or prevalence of travelers from Zika-affected countries will begin screening within the next four weeks.

Studies have shown that Zika is most dangerous to pregnant women. Babies infected with the virus are more likely to be born with microcephaly or other severe fetal brain defects.

As health officials nationwide take steps to protect public health, Chris Fedalei, the Democratic candidate running against U.S. Rep. Trey Gowdy in the 4th Congressional District, is urging Congress to act to help states.

Fedalei wants Congress to pass funding for Zika relief that President Barack Obama requested in February. Obama asked Congress for nearly $2 billion to stop the spread of the virus.

SC DHEC map of Zika cases by county

It includes $828 million for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to prepare Zika readiness and action plans in states, countries and other localities.

The money would also pay for enhanced mosquito control programs, virus surveillance and improved laboratory capacity for testing and diagnostics.

“The Zika virus is an emerging threat that needs corrective action not to get worse,” Fedalei said.

There have been 43 travel-related cases of Zika confirmed in South Carolina, according to the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control. Thirteen of those cases have been in the Upstate, with three cases in Spartanburg County and seven in Greenville County.

NASA has been working with public health officials to produce a map showing the areas of the country most at risk of spreading Zika. The research team looked at factors such as temperature, rainfall and socioeconomic status to understand where a potential outbreak could occur.

Fedalei said NASA evaluated South Carolina as “at least a moderate threat for an outbreak. Specifically, Charleston has a severe risk, with Columbia and the Upstate identified as having a moderate risk.”

“It should be an absolute no-brainer — if you can do something to protect the safety and health of your constituents, you do that,” Fedalei said. "It’s a clearly defined threat that needs to be taken seriously.”

Jacqueline Fox, a law professor at the University of South Carolina, helped Fedalei draft his proposal for fighting Zika. Fox, who teaches health law and has written several law reviews on health care reform, said she is worried about what could happen if Zika begins to spread.

“When you start to look at the people who are at risk, they have multiple kids, live below the poverty line and don’t have a lot of control over whether they get pregnant or not,” Fox said.

Richard Yanity, spokesperson for DHEC, said the risk of transmission depends on if and when a person comes into contact with the virus-carrying mosquito.

While there haven’t been any local transmissions of the virus, Yanity said DHEC is encouraging people to take precautions to eliminate mosquito breeding grounds, wearing long sleeves outside at night and using mosquito repellent.

“We don’t anticipate widespread outbreaks,” Yanity said. “Again, we want to make sure people are taking those precautions.”