The Indiana Blood Center has been forced to defer up to 30 percent of donors at some post-spring break blood drives because they had traveled to areas where the Zika virus is being transmitted, according to a spokeswoman.
Last month, the center fell about 400 units short of its monthly goal of 10,000 units, The Indianapolis Star reported.
"That's of concern," said Andrea Fagan, a center spokeswoman. "It doesn't sound like a lot when you quantify it that way, but those are potentially 400 patients that didn't get blood."
Advice from the Food and Drug Administration prompted the center to begin screening donors for Zika-area travel in March. The federal government recommends that those who travel to areas where the virus is active wait a month after returning to donate blood.
To make up for the drop in donations, Indiana Blood Center officials have been asking donors who are planning a trip to the affected areas to donate before they go. They're also asking donors who haven't traveled to help restock the center's dwindling supplies.
"It's a two-pronged approach," said Dr. Julie Cruz, the center's associate medical director. "The biggest thing that we want to let donors know is to plan for Zika travel and to let the donors who aren't traveling know that we need them."
Zika can be transmitted by a mosquito bite and through sex. The virus is rarely deadly, but it can cause birth defects when a pregnant woman is infected, so health officials have advised pregnant women not to travel to places where the virus is active, including the Caribbean, Mexico, Puerto Rico and much of Central and South America, and to be careful when having sex.
Because the virus can be transmitted through sex, Indiana Blood Center also is asking people who have had sexual contact with a man who has been in a Zika affected area in the past three months to refrain from donating blood in the 28 days after the sexual encounter.
Between March 14 and April 30, fewer than 1 percent of donors were turned away due to their risk for the Zika virus, according to the national office of the American Red Cross. Officials with the Indiana office reported seminal numbers.