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Existing rules ‘sufficient to protect blood supplies from Zika virus’

Existing safeguards are good enough to protect Ireland’s blood supplies from the Zika virus, health chiefs have said.

Under current rules, donors who have been to tropical regions are barred from giving donations for three months while a 12-month deferral is in place for those who have been in malarial regions.

The Irish Blood Transfusion Service (IBTS) said anyone who is confirmed with the virus will be barred from donating for six months.

“Therefore existing deferral policies are adequate for protecting the blood supply from Zika virus,” a spokeswoman said.

The IBTS said it has always operated on the basis of restrictions on blood donations based on regions rather than naming specific countries.

It also said the regions have traditionally been selected based on where blood-borne diseases are endemic, such as some parts of the tropics.

Zika is believed to be spread by the Aedes mosquitoes, which usually bite during the morning and late afternoon/evening hours, and is the same insect that transmits dengue, chikungunya and yellow fever.

A man and woman in Ireland who contracted the Zika virus have made a full recovery, health chiefs have said.

The cases – the first of their kind in the country – are unrelated to each other and both people have a history of travel to a Zika-affected country.

The Health Service Executive (HSE) said the newly-discovered Zika cases in Ireland are “not an unexpected event” as many other European countries have reported cases as a result of people travelling to affected areas.

Health chiefs have urged Irish people who fall ill within two weeks after returning from an affected area to seek medical help.

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The Health Protection Surveillance Centre issued specific advice regarding implications of Zika virus transmission to a number of relevant groups including the IBTS.

The World Health Organisation has declared an international emergency over the virus, which is linked to birth defects in Brazil and the Americas.

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