The WP Blood Transfusion Service (WPBTS) adjusted its donor acceptance criteria in an effort to proactively ensure that no blood transfusion recipients will be exposed to the Zika virus.

The Zika virus infection is spread through mosquito bites and is mild in most cases. Although not life-threatening, there is a concern that Zika is causing serious brain injury to babies whose mothers have been infected during pregnancy and an increase in cases of Guillain-Barre Syndrome, which is a temporary but serious disorder causing paralysis.  Up to 80% of people infected with the Zika virus may have no symptoms at all.

“As there is concern that the Zika virus infection can be transmitted via blood transfusion, the Service asks that blood donors who travelled to the countries listed below NOT donate blood within 28 days of returning to the Western Cape”, says Marlize van der Merwe, WPBTS Spokesperson.  “The safety of our blood donors and recipients are of utmost importance to the Service and the deferral has been put in place for that exact reason.”

Americas Oceania/Pacific Africa
Barbados Haiti American Samoa Cape Verde
Bolivia Honduras Samoa
Brazil Jamaica Tonga
Colombia Martinique
Costa Rica Mexico
Curacao Nicaragua
Dominican Republic Panama
Ecuador Paraguay
El Salvador Puerto Rico
French Guiana Saint Martin
Guadeloupe Suriname
Guatemala US Virgin Islands
Guyana Venezuela

Travelling to tropical areas puts people at risk of getting infections not usually found in South Africa.  If donors visited the aforementioned affected areas, found themselves having donated blood and experience the following symptoms within the next 14 days after donation, please notify WPBTS immediately at 021 507 6320 or 021 507 6329:

  • Fever of more than 37.8oC
  • Muscle and/or joint aches or weakness
  • Eye pain, including conjunctivitis (pink eye)
  • A rash

As this restriction is expected to reduce the number of eligible blood donors, those who are healthy and are not affected by this post-travel waiting period, are encouraged to donate blood.  The basic donor acceptance criteria asks one to be at least 16 years of age, weigh more than 50 kg’s, be in good general health and live a sexually safe lifestyle.  It is also important for donors to eat a substantial meal three to four hours before donating blood and increase their fluid intake on the day of donation.

For more information, please visit the WPBTS website at or contact the Service at 021 507 6300.