Local blood drives turn away some donors after FDA Zika decision

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BLACKSBURG, Va. (WDBJ7) The Food and Drug Administration released new recommendations Friday asking all Us blood banks to start screening for the Zika virus.

Previously, the FDA only recommended testing in Zika affected areas.

It's a major expansion intended to protect the nation's blood supply from the mosquito-borne disease, but comes the same day that hundreds of Virginia Tech students turned out to a three-day blood donation drive, hoping that they can life up to the school's mission of service.

"I think at Virginia Tech, there's a culture of service," Cadet Mjr. Fiona Rolfes said. "Our university's motto is 'Ut Prosi [That I May Serve],' and it's not just something that's plastered on the walls. It's a way of life that they students here actually believe in."

The Zika virus isn't affecting turnout, but it is changing who can donate.

Virginia Blood Services workers ask donors to self-defer if they've traveled to Miami-Dade Florida, or Zika-affected areas.

"We've had a few in this area, but not as many as you would expect in Florida, or Georgia, or North Carolina," Virginia Blood Service's Doug Rubel said.

The target for Friday was 135 donations, but they already had 160 people signed into donate hours before the event wrapped up. Organizers say they're already well past their three-day target.

"They give and expect nothing in return," Rubel said. "They either donate, or they'll stand out in the heat like today and recruit people to donate."

Blood banks already test donations for some blood-borne viruses like HIV, hepatitis, and West Nile virus.

Virginia Blood Services' Michelle Westbay says they're in the process of ramping up their Zika blood screening, but they don't have a start-date for the test.