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Switzerland introduces Zika-related blood quarantine

A ban on blood donation is typical for tropical diseases, says the director of the Swiss blood donation organisation Keystone

People returning to Switzerland from an area affected by the Zika virus will be banned from giving blood for a month, the national blood bank has announced.

This content was published on February 8, 2016 - 17:51 and agencies

“This quarantine period, during which we will not take blood donations from potentially affected people, is the same as for any other tropical disease,” Rudolf Schwabe, director of the national blood donation organisation Swiss Transfusion, told the Swiss News Agency. “This measure is simpler and less expensive than testing all of the blood samples concerned.” 

Other countries have introduced similar measures: Canada banned blood donations for 21 days after return from a Zika-affected area, while France and Britain introduced quarantines of 28 days. 

Last Thursday, the Geneva-based World Health Organization (WHO) declared a quarantine on blood donation as an appropriate precaution against the Zika virus, citing the associated risks of microencephaly in unborn children and the nerve disease Guillain-Barre syndrome. 

So far, three cases of Zika have been reported in Switzerland among travellers who had gone to infected areas. The third case was reported on Monday. 

In 80% of Zika cases, those infected show no symptoms. Any symptoms that do appear tend to be flu-like and arise two to three weeks after the victim is bitten by an infected mosquito. 

Meanwhile, the European Medicines Agency EMA has assembled a group of experts to advise the pharmaceutical industry on developing medications and a vaccine against Zika. That group is actively appealing to companies to develop treatments, according to a statement released by EMA on Monday. 

EMA also called on researchers working on promising projects related to Zika to report their findings. Its goal, the organisation said, is to find a treatment for the virus as soon as possible. So far, there is no vaccine available for the disease, nor medication to treat it. There are also no Zika-related clinical trials underway.

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