Blood Bank Center Transfers Zika Testing Costs to Hospitals

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MCALLEN - A Rio Grande Valley non-profit that handles blood donations will pass along the cost of Zika testing to local hospitals.

United Blood Services said the move has to happen to keep the blood supply free of infection. Until now, they said they’ve been absorbing the cost of the Zika tests.

The test costs them less than $10 per sample.

Before the testing, the non-profit had to turn away people who recently visited a country where the virus was confirmed.

With five Zika cases that likely came from the local mosquito population, health authorities are on alert about the disease.

John Crouch, 18, went to the center to donate blood for the first time. He and other donors said they were screened and tested for infection in the blood they donate.

“If I’m in the hospital, I’d love for someone to give blood that I would need,” he said.

People who donate blood can have a Zika infection and not know it. That virus can be spread through the blood, possibly infecting an expecting mother. The virus is linked to microcephaly, a dramatic symptom in newborns.

United Blood Services regional director Frank Esparza said they’re testing all donations to prevent the spread of the virus.

 Esparza explained the donor fills up a unit with their blood. The sample then gets set aside, packaged and delivered to a lab so it can be tested for Zika.

“It only takes a couple of days before we get those results back,” he said.

If the sample gets cleared, the blood donation goes to the hospital for patients in need.

“It’s for your safety. But really it’s just as much for the person receiving as giving,” Crouch said. “I don’t want anything bad to happen to me here and I want it to be helpful.”


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