Are you curious about Zika Virus and Canadian Blood Supply?

February 3, 2016

  • There’s been a lot of recent media coverage on the emerging threat of Zika virus. So far, only three cases have been reported in Canadians who contracted the virus abroad.
  • The Zika virus is an arbovirus, transmitted by mosquitos, that has been spreading across the Americas. Most individuals who contract the virus have it in their blood for a brief period, and some then develop mild symptoms (fever, rash, joint pain, conjunctivitis). Although a lot remains unknown about the virus, it has been associated with birth defects (microcephaly, or small brain) in infants in Brazil.
  • It is important to note that Zika virus poses no risk to staff and donors in the clinic environment.
  • Canadian Blood Services (CBS) is working with Health Canada and Héma-Québec to mitigate the risk of the Zika virus entering the blood supply, while ensuring Canadian patients continue to receive the blood and blood products they need.
  • Currently, CBS defers donors who feel sick or unwell and they are in the process of revising their eligibility criteria to temporarily defer donors who have recently travelled outside of Canada, the U.S. or Europe.
  • This deferral is being introduced as a precaution. To date, transfusion transmission of Zika virus has not been shown to cause disease.
  • Given this time of year, when so many Canadians visit warmer locales, this travel deferral will have an impact on collections. To offset this, we are urging Canadians who are not planning to travel to help us make up this shortfall. We are also urging anyone who is planning a trip to locations outside of Canada, the U.S. and Europe to donate before they go. To schedule donation, visit
  • CBS and Transfusion Medicine staff remain committed to providing the safest and most effective products to patients in need. That’s why we routinely monitor all outbreaks of known and emerging infectious diseases, like Zika virus, to ensure potential risks to blood safety are identified, assessed and responded to in a timely way.

For more information about Zika virus, see the Public Health Agency of Canada’s Public Health Notice and/or CBS’ official statement: