According to a report from the Ministry on Health and Social Protection, Colombia reported 74’000 cases of Chikungunya fever in 2014; two years later, in 2016, over 58’000 cases of Zika virus infection were registered. These were the years of outbreak of the diseases in the country.

In response to this situation, The Colombian Red Cross’ National Blood Bank introduced extra measures in the selection of blood donors to limit the risk of transmitting the disease through blood transfusion.

It is in this context that the Colombian Red Cross’ National Blood Bank Research Group, coordinated by Dr Milena Baquero Acuña and Dr Aya Rodriguez, the National Blood Bank’s director, launched a study on the direct impact of the measures introduced by the National Institute of Health on diseases that can be transmitted trough transfusion.

The study shows that between 2014 and 2017 there was a significant increase in deferrals due to “sojourn in an endemic area”. “Compared to 2013, the amount of people deferred for this reason in the following years increased between 5.8 and 10.8 times.”

A total of 1’470 people was not allowed to donate their blood in the period above mentioned due to this reason, which represented an important challenge for the National Blood Bank as its blood inventory was affected.

“No in-depth analysis on the impact of this measure had ever been carried out in the country. We decided to study this topic because we identified that this type of deferral is having a serious impact in Blood Banks”, said Dr Baquero.

The study’s conclusions highlight that considering the limited evidence on transmission by transfusion of the two viruses and the impact caused by this type of deferral, the continuity of these measures is questionable.

The study “Impact of Chikungunya and Zika in blood donors’ deferral, 2013-2017” (Original title “Impacto de las enfermedades emergentes Chikunguña y Zika en el diferimiento de donantes de sangre, 2013-2017”) was awarded the price of best research work (Blood Bank category) during the Tenth Colombian Congress and Seventieth Iberoamerican Congress of Blood Banks and Transfusion Medicine, which took place in Barranquilla (Colombia) in May 2018.

Read the abstract of the study here (in Spanish)