Mississippi blood collection agencies say supplies are at emergency levels with just days before the busy Labor Day holiday. MPB’s Evelina Burnett reports.
Mitzi Breaux has been with United Blood Services for 10 years. She says this summer, usually a slow time for blood donations anyway, has been one of the toughest she’s seen.
"It's a nationwide epidemic," she says. "There has been an extreme, unusual decline in donations this summer. So as we ready the blood supply for the Labor Day holiday weekend, it's already extremely low, and we're anticipating a spike in patients who are needing blood. So we encourage all people who are healthy and eligible to please donate blood."
She says, a 28-day waiting period for travelers to Zika-virus affected countries may be in part to blame.
"I think people that have traveled to that area, they're hearing that they can't donate, so they're just not coming in," she says, "but if it's been 28 days since you've returned, please come in and donate. Yoiu're eligible to donate now."
The Food & Drug Administration issued guidance Friday that all blood supplies should be tested for zika virus. Breaux says they’ll continue to screen for travel to Zika affected regions, and sex with those who have been. But since Mississippi has not had any locally transmitted cases of Zika virus, United Blood Services won’t begin universal testing here.
The American Red Cross said it's reviewing the FDA’s guidance. It's currently conducting blood donor tests for Zika under an investigational study in five southeastern states, including Mississippi. It says it will expand this testing to four more states over the next few weeks.
The Red Cross says it also has an emergency appeal to donors, with all blood types urgently needed.