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Spring break, Zika could be an unhealthy combination for Arizona

FILE - In this Jan. 27, 2016, file photo, an Aedes aegypti mosquito is photographed through a microscope at the Fiocruz institute in Recife, Pernambuco state, Brazil. Forget mosquito bites. Volunteers let researchers inject them with the dengue virus in the name of science, and an experimental vaccine protected them. Next up, scientists plan to use this same strategy against dengue's cousin, the Zika virus. It's called a human challenge, a little-known but increasing type of research where healthy people agree to be deliberately infected in the quest for new or improved vaccines against a variety of health threats, from flu to malaria. Wednesday's dengue study offered more evidence that what sounds bizarre not only can be done safely, it can offer important clues for how well a shot might work. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana, File)

With so many people traveling for spring break, health officials think Arizona could soon get a case or two of the Zika virus.

If that happens officials said it will also affect the state’s blood supply.

“We have no known Zika virus cases in Arizona, but we anticipate that we’re going to get one,” said Dr. Cara Christ, Director of the Arizona Department of Health Services. “A lot of people from Arizona travel to Zika infected areas; that would be the Caribbean, Mexico, and South America.” 

Pregnant women are specifically advised not to go to those places she said. There is an association between getting infected while pregnant and potential birth defects.

The Zika virus and Arizona’s proximity to the border is depleting the state’s blood supply, according to Sue Thew with United Blood Services.

“It’s really important that people who are able to donate blood, step up and take the place of those who cannot donate blood right now,” said Thew.

The organization has cancelled three blood drives in Yuma due to the Zika virus and they’re looking to help fill the bank.

“Central America, South America, the Caribbean, but Mexico is the one that’s really impacting Arizona, because anyone who’s been to Mexico in the past 28 days cannot donate blood,” said Thew.

If you are going to the Zika infected areas Dr. Christ warns people to wear mosquito repellant and avoid being bitten.

Avoid being in places, if you can, where mosquitoes are so sleeping in air conditioned areas with netting and wearing long sleeves and long pants when you’re out,” she said. “These mosquitoes bite both day and night.” 

Most people that get Zika are symptom free, with about 20 percent that get the disease potentially experiencing joint pain and a fever, she said.

People should only worry right now if they’ve gone to a place that actually has the Zika virus, because the mosquito that carries the disease has not been found in Arizona so far, she said.

Arizonans can donate blood before heading to Mexico.

To find a blood donation center go to https://www.bloodhero.com/index.cfm

KTAR’s Martha Maurer contributed to this report. 

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