United Blood Services Arizona is part of a national effort to supply blood to Puerto Rico, one of the U.S. territories hardest hit by the Zika virus. Puerto Rican blood centers have stopped collecting blood locally, because of the outbreak there.

Currently, there is no blood screening test available for Zika. The Blood Systems network of community blood centers has shipped a total of 623 units of red cells, platelets and plasma to Puerto Rico and is scheduled to send another 893 units this week. The blood shipments are expected to continue for the next several weeks.

“With spring break and summer travel coming up, we’re asking people to come donate before they visit a Zika-affected area,” said Audrey Jennings, UBS Arizona executive director. “Or, if you’re healthy and are not planning on traveling to one of these areas, please make an appointment today to donate blood soon.”  

Additional donors are needed to take the place of those who are not eligible to give blood because of the Zika travel deferral. Due to Arizona’s proximity to the Mexico border, donations at blood drives in Yuma County have dropped by approximately 36 percent, while three other blood drives were cancelled because of the low number of eligible donors.  

To maintain a safe blood supply here, UBS requires that donors who have returned from an area where Zika is present wait 28 days before they give blood. These areas include Mexico, Central and South America, the Caribbean (including Puerto Rico) and the Atlantic and Pacific Islands.

In addition, donors should not give blood if in the past four weeks if they have had symptoms from a known case of Zika. The most common symptoms include fever, rash, joint or muscle pain, eye pain or redness, or headache. Visit UnitedBloodServices.org for a complete list of Zika-affected areas and an advisory for blood donors, to make a donation appointment and for more information.

Blood donation takes about an hour, from check-in to refreshments. Donors can save about 20 minutes by completing their Fast Track Health History the day they donate.

United Blood Services has been Arizona’s non-profit community blood provider since 1943 and serves patients in more than 60 Arizona hospitals. The UBS network is one of the nation’s oldest and largest non-profit blood service organizations, and is a founding member of America’s Blood Centers and the American Association of Blood Banks.  

For more information on how to Find the Hero in You, please call 1-877-UBS-HERO (1-877-827-4376) toll-free, or visit UnitedBloodServices.org.