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Zika virus could soon impact FL blood supply

Posted at 12:18 PM, Apr 06, 2016

Tampa Bay Area blood banks fear a Zika-induced blood shortage is on the horizon.

Blood is already in short supply in Florida right now, but there are several impending factors set to have a major impact on hospitals and sick people in the area.

Blood banks, like Suncoast in Sarasota, and OneBlood with locations across the Tampa Bay Area, have had to turn people away who've traveled to Latin America or the Caribbean recently.

The new policy to protect against the mosquito-born Zika virus has led to a serious decrease, about five percent, in blood donations.

Five percent might not sound like a lot, but it is.

"But only 4 percent of the population donates, and that 4 percent makes up 100 percent of the blood supply," explains Scott Bush, the President/CEO of Suncoast Blood Bank in Sarasota. "Now when you have to defer more people than you thought, we're very concerned," Bush tells ABC Action News.

The concern doesn't stop there.

Many of those donations come from "snowbirds" or seasonal Florida residents. Many of those people are leaving to return North just as the problem is set to worsen.

The Spring and Summer months are expected to bring the mosquito population further north into Florida, expanding the spread of Zika.

When the virus does spread into Florida, it could force blood donation centers to stop collecting, which would have a domino effect on the health care industry, says Scott Bush.

Bush says collections have already stopped in Puerto Rico, which means Puerto Rico hospitals are getting blood from Florida, and if Florida has to stop collecting and get blood elsewhere, it could lead to a nationwide blood shortage, and cause problems for emergency surgeries and others who rely on blood donations.

If you want to learn more about how to become a donor, the Red Cross has information. You can also go to the websites of OneBlood and Suncoast.