Thursday April 14, 2016 – JACKSONVILLE, Fla.—There are now 84 confirmed cases of the Zika virus in the state of Florida. Two new cases were reported in Palm Beach and Broward counties Friday.
Clay County has one reported case, and Collier County has another. They have all been travel-related. An outbreak of the Zika virus in Florida is still a very real possibility.
“When you have people that bring the infection in from outside you do have a risk that they will infect the local mosquitoes and those mosquitoes could then infect a local resident,” explains Dr. Rita Reik, the Chief Medical Officer for OneBlood.
The local non-profit blood center serves all hospitals in the Jacksonville area and is working to stay ahead of the virus.
Florida has had outbreaks in the past of dengue and Chikungunya. They were small localized outbreaks.
Still blood banks had to take precautions. Some of those safety measures are in place right now as the the threat of a Zika virus outbreak looms.
Five weeks ago Paul Audd welcomed his first grandchild into the world. Little Nathan’s healthy arrival came as a relief to the family.
“My son just had a baby and his wife caught the Zika virus, they were in South America,” said Audd. “She caught it when she was five months pregnant. So we sweated it out. Was the baby going to have microcephaly or not? Thank God he doesn’t.”
It’s not 100 percent proven that Zika can cause birth defects in babies but the concern is certainly there. Audd has a standing appointment every two weeks at OneBlood. He lays comfortably in a chair and donates platelets.
“I’ve been doing this for 29 years,” said Audd.
But recently there’s been a slight change. One he certainly understands and supports.
“Zika is terrible and terribly frightening,” said Audd.
Especially for expectant moms. Additional donor deferral guidelines are now in place, donor questionnaires have been updated to include Zika specific questions and educational materials.
“As soon as Zika raised it’s ugly head we’ve been actively putting our plans in place,” said Dr. Reik. “We’re working closely with the FDA, The CDC and the Florida Department of Health.” :14
She says there’s no FDA approved test to use for the Zika virus but there is an experimental test, one they’ll ask the FDA for approval to use to screen much needed and appreciated blood donors for Zika.
“I know for a fact that there are people walking around that are alive because of me,” said Audd. “That’s pretty cool.”