Thursday, December 17, 2019 — The American Red Cross will receive $400,000 for a project to test blood for the dengue virus from the broad federal appropriations bill approved by Congress and signed into law by President Barack Obama.
Red Cross worker waits for Hepatitis C and Chagas' disease test results.
Mike Murdock/American Red Cross
The money designated in the legislation for the Red Cross will fund the testing of blood collected in Puerto Rico for dengue fever. Congressman Pedro Pierluisi (D-PR) secured the funding in the legislation.
Dengue fever usually occurs in tropical environments, and once contracted will result in a sudden onset of fever, headache and muscle pain. This virus-based disease is primarily transmitted between people by mosquitoes, but can also be spread by blood transfusions from infected donors.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, dengue transmission in Puerto Rico follows a seasonal pattern. Low transmission season begins in March and lasts until June, and high transmission begins in August until November.
“The American Red Cross is committed to providing a safe and adequate blood supply,” says Dr. Susan Stramer, executive scientific officer for the Red Cross. “Adding an investigational screening test to detect dengue virus-infected donors in an area where the virus and the diseases it causes are endemic, such as Puerto Rico, is another step in ensuring the safest blood supply possible.”
Blood donation screening for dengue virus by direct nucleic acid testing would be implemented by the American Red Cross at one of its FDA-licensed National Testing Laboratories (NTLs).
Blood components from donors that test positive would not be distributed, but destroyed or used for further research. Blood donors would be notified of their positive results and deferred temporarily until it is safe to collect blood from them again. These donors would also be given the opportunity to enroll into research studies to define the characteristics of naturally acquired dengue infection to further promote blood safety.
About the American Red Cross:
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies nearly half of the nation's blood; teaches lifesaving skills; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a charitable organization — not a government agency — and depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit www.redcross.org or join our blog at http://blog.redcross.org.