New FDA recommendation to test blood for Zika hits Oklahoma

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OKLAHOMA - The Oklahoma Blood Institute is preparing to test all of their blood for Zika virus.

"We're getting four new machines to do the through put. It's a fast and effective way, so we don't slow down. That's a lot of lab space and validating the equipment," said Dr. John Armitage, CEO and president at OBI.

It's will cost millions of dollars to implement the new test kits - all a part of a new recommendation from the Federal Drug Administration to prevent the spread of Zika from blood transfusions.

So far, two blood transfusion cases have been reported, both in Brazil.

"It seems like blood is not a very effective way to transmit the disease which is a wonderful protection for anyone that might be receiving blood, so what we're doing with this testing is a very precautionary measure,” Armitage said.

Florida is the only state with non-travel related Zika cases right now, but that could change.

"It's expected they'll slowly move west out of Florida to the gulf coast, so we're a long way away to having a risk, but we feel like part of our role, as a blood center, is do some surveillance."

The new testing is also a way to track a future outbreak.

"If we were testing our donors, our otherwise health donors and we discovered a case, then that was part of understanding how the whole states going to be affected by this epidemic," Armitage said.

Eleven states will start testing in September including Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi.

Oklahoma will start November 18.

Loyal donors support new blood screening.

"It is dangerous for pregnant women, so yes,” said Bud Manning.

"Be on a table operating with someone else's bad blood on you," said Steven Wright.

OBI started buying the equipment several months before the FDA mandate.

OBI currently already screens the blood for 10 different viruses.

They said the testing will be ongoing.

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