Mandatory Zika testing coming to Amarillo

Mandatory Zika testing coming to Amarillo
Joe McCormick, VP of Coffee Memorial Division
Joe McCormick, VP of Coffee Memorial Division
Blood donation
Blood donation

AMARILLO, TX (KFDA) - Thousand of blood banks, including Coffee Memorial in Amarillo, have one month to implement new testing for Zika.

Coffee Memorial aims to make sure all of its blood supply is safe, but now one more test will be added to ensure someone's last chance for life is not contaminated with the Zika Virus.

"Zika is kind of new on the horizon and I think there's a lot that we don't know about it," said Joe McCormick, Vice President of Coffee Memorial Division.

The FDA is telling all blood banks to start checking for Zika. Texas and 10 other states have until Oct.1 to make the changes, the remaining 39 states will have three months to comply.

"We had been speculating in the blood banking industry for several months that this was coming," said McCormick.

While McCormick says he saw this coming, he didn't think the federal mandate would be put in place so soon.

"A lot of folks are scrambling to get testing in place," said McCormick. "It's a new platform, new testing equipment that has to be installed."

But Coffee Memorial is ready. The new Zika testing for our area will be in place Sept.23 -- a week before the deadline.

"The lab that does our testing in Oklahoma City has been very proactive and they have the equipment in place," said McCormick. "It's a PCR test, very similar to the West Nile test that been in use for several years to screen blood."

If we happen to come across a Zika contaminated blood donation, Coffee Memorial will let the donor know so they can seek medical attention-- then they'll notify the CDC.

McCormick says this is all a good idea -- to make sure blood distributed around the country doesn't have this awful virus inside it.

"That's always been our objective, to make sure the blood supply is as safe as it can possibly be," said McCormick.

Officials say the cost of adding Zika testing to the screening process is less than $10 per blood donation. FDA officials do not anticipate any problems supplying the tests throughout the U.S.

Copyright 2016 KFDA. All rights reserved.