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Oklahoma Blood Institute, Hospitals Bracing For Costs Associated With Zika Prep

Jamie Gerrard and Michael Ling prepare blood samples for testing at Oklahoma Blood Institute in Oklahoma City.
Brent Fuchs
/
The Journal Record
Jamie Gerrard and Michael Ling prepare blood samples for testing at Oklahoma Blood Institute in Oklahoma City.

New federal recommendations could have a ripple effect on blood donation centers across the country. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced Friday all blood donation centers should test for the Zika virus.

The Oklahoma Blood Institute is one of many donation centers changing its testing practices to screen for the pathogen.

Oklahoma has until mid-November to get new testing procedures in place, The Journal Record’s Sarah Terry-Cobo reports:

[OBI Chief Medical Officer Dr. James W.] Smith said his organization was part of a research project with two companies that are testing the Zika screening kits. The tests are part of the FDA’s new drug validation process to ensure the screening kits are effective. Smith said he initially planned to test samples randomly as part of the research, until the FDA’s Friday announcement. OBI has 13 blood donation centers in the region, including one in Texas and two in Arkansas. Smith said his organization will be able to test all its Texas donations by the Sept. 23 deadline. The organization will need to purchase at least three more machines that can test for the Zika virus so OBI can comply with the Nov. 18 deadline. The new machines will prevent long delays, because the testing procedure is time-consuming, and most donations are tested and processed for shipment within 24 hours.

Smith said he’ll be able to meet the new federal recommendations, but he’s concerned other donation centers might have trouble getting all the equipment in place by the November deadline.

Hospitals and other providers could also see a $5 per-pint increase in the cost of blood, and Terry-Cobo says there are other administrative costs OBI will have to absorb to prepare for Zika.

Oklahoma State Health Department Epidemiologist Laurence Burnsed said 21 people in Oklahoma are confirmed to have the Zika virus as of Aug. 26. One infected person is a pregnant woman. All the cases were contracted after traveling internationally to an area where the virus had spread. There have been no confirmed cases of local transmission in Oklahoma, either by an infected mosquito or through sexual interactions, Burnsed said. If the Health Department found a person who could have been infected locally, the Acute Disease Service division would contact local blood donation centers to make them aware of the risk. However, there is a relatively low risk for local Zika virus transmission in Oklahoma, compared to other Southeastern states, such as Texas, Louisiana and Florida, Burnsed said. The agency only found only a few Aedes aegypti mosquitos, which can carry the virus, in Altus.

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Brian Hardzinski is from Flower Mound, Texas and a graduate of the University of Oklahoma. He began his career at KGOU as a student intern, joining KGOU full time in 2009 as Operations and Public Service Announcement Director. He began regularly hosting Morning Edition in 2014, and became the station's first Digital News Editor in 2015-16. Brian’s work at KGOU has been honored by Public Radio News Directors Incorporated (PRNDI), the Oklahoma Association of Broadcasters, the Oklahoma Associated Press Broadcasters, and local and regional chapters of the Society of Professional Journalists. Brian enjoys competing in triathlons, distance running, playing tennis, and entertaining his rambunctious Boston Terrier, Bucky.
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