Canada bans Zika zone traveller blood donations

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The Associated Press

Geneva: The Latest on the Zika virus that is spreading through Latin America (all times local): 8:00 p.m.

Canadian Blood Services will soon refuse blood donations from those who have travelled to countries where the mosquito-borne Zika virus has become widespread.

Chief medical and scientific officer Dr. Dana Devine says the blood collection agency will decide in the next few days which travel destinations would be linked to a temporary ban on donating blood.

Devine says the risk of the Zika virus being transmitted through blood transfusion is low, but Canadian Blood Services doesn’t want to take any chances.

The agency already prohibits Canadians who have travelled to countries where malaria is endemic from donating blood for a period of 12 months.

Rio de Janeiro Mayor Eduardo Paes says he doesn’t believe the spreading Zika virus “is a problem for the Olympics,” which open in six months in the picturesque South American city.

He notes that the games starting Aug. 5 will occur in the drier, cooler South American winter season when controlling the mosquito population “will be much easier.”

Also speaking Thursday was International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach, who said his organization is in “close contact” with Brazilian authorities and the World Health Organization about Zika.

Bach said the IOC would send advice this week to all national Olympic committees, which can then tell athletes about safety guidelines.

Health officials say the number of U.S. residents diagnosed with Zika infections in the past year has grown to 31.

All of them are believed to have caught the infection while travelling in the Caribbean or Latin America where there are outbreaks of the tropical illness.

Officials said Thursday the 31 people are in 11 states and Washington. In U.S. territories, Puerto Rico has 19 confirmed cases and the U.S. Virgin Islands has one.

The government is looking at the issue of blood donations from travellers, although officials think the virus is gone from an infected person’s blood in a week or less.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff has called for a meeting of the member nations of South America’s Mercosur trading bloc to discuss ways to join forces to eliminate the Aedes mosquito and the Zika virus it transmits.

The Brazilian presidency’s website says she told reporters covering the Wednesday summit meeting of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States in Quito, Ecuador, that the Mercosur meeting will be held Feb. 2 in Montevideo, Uruguay.

“We must declare war on the mosquito and until we have a vaccine against the Zika virus, that war must focus our efforts on eliminating its breeding grounds,” Rousseff said on her Twitter page.

“Eliminating Zika is everyone’s responsibility. We must eradicate all areas of stagnant water where the mosquito lives and reproduces.”