The 219 pints of blood University of Miami students and faculty donated to OneBlood during the “Battle of the Bucket” went through an unusual process this time around: Zika testing during a tropical storm warning. The donations were made over the course of three days as part of a blood drive contest between the University of Miami and Florida State University (FSU). The final tally was a decrease in more than 60 donations from last year, when UM won the competition with 280 pints of blood.
The blood drive at UM was cut short by four hours last week because of campus closures ahead of Hurricane Matthew, and the FunDay committee is planning on bringing a Big Red Bus to collect more blood on campus next week and make up for lost time, FunDay Chair Brandon Desousa said.
The drive is organized every year by the committee of FunDay, an event that pairs special-needs citizens with student volunteers for a day, and all blood is donated to OneBlood hospital partners in the Southeast United States.
As a preventative measure in the midst of local transmission of the Zika virus in South Florida, OneBlood has been testing all donations for the virus but will not let donors know if they are infected, however.
The mosquito-transmitted Zika virus has been a concern in Miami since July, when the first cases were reported in South Florida. Popular tourist destinations, such as Wynwood Arts District and Miami Beach were identified as areas of active transmission, and residents were instructed to drain mosquito-friendly standing water and cover themselves when going outside.
The biggest threat was to women who are pregnant or thinking of becoming pregnant, because the virus can cause damaging birth defects. The virus is also sexually transmitted, making it more urgent for men and the general population to avoid being infected. Blood tests that are commercially available now will detect the virus in the blood up to two weeks, but after that point, results are unclear because tests for long-term infection are still being developed.
The date for FSU’s blood drive has not been announced. The Battle of the Bucket winner will be announced after that.