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Blood bank now testing donor blood for Zika

The HSA blood bank told Cayman 27 its blood supply is safer now that donor blood is being screened for the Zika virus.

The lab has already put the testing re-agents to good use, ferreting out one case of Zika from a donor who had no idea he was even infected.

“All our tests in a nutshell, are chemical reactions,” said Senior medical technologist Dale Chin.

He described how these testing chemicals, known as reagents, can help protect Cayman’s blood supply against the Zika.

“Before we had this new test, what we would do was quarantine the blood for two weeks, after that time, we would contact the patient to find out if they were having any symptoms that might be related to Zika,” said Mr. Chin.

That left an opening for so-called silent zika.

“Only a small percentage of patients actually show symptoms, so there was a genuine concern for the whole safety of the process, the safety of the blood we are giving to individuals,” said Mr. Chin.

With the reagents, the blood bank can detect the IGM antibodies associated with Zika in just a couple hours. Already, the blood bank has sniffed out one case of Zika, the country’s 29th lab-confirmed case, that otherwise may have gone undetected.

“Once we get that positive test, once that blood is positive for Zika we go ahead and discard that unit of blood,” said Mr. Chin.

He said the reagents add another layer of safety to the blood supply.
It’s important to note that pregnant women who need blood have been receiving imported blood that’s been through a secondary level of screening called a PCR test. That practice will continue.

Also, Public Health continues its series of Zika town hall meetings Tuesday night (25 October) at John A Cumber Primary school hall in West Bay. The meeting starts at 5:30.

About the author

Joseph Avary

Joseph Avary

Joe Avary joined the Cayman 27 team in January 2014, bringing nearly two decades of experience in TV news to the islands. He spends his time away from the office scuba diving, practicing yoga, and trying to make his friends laugh at his comedic stylings. He proudly calls the district of West Bay home, and loves nothing more than relaxing visits to the Sister Islands.

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