Acknowledging Zika is here to stay, the United Nations health agency is lifting a 9-month-old emergency declaration against the mosquito-borne virus that can result in severe birth defects when pregnant women are infected.

The World Health Organization is instead shifting to a longer-term approach against a virus that has spread across Latin America, the Caribbean and beyond.

Dr. David Heymann, head of a WHO emergency committee on Zika, cited a "significant and enduring" threat.

Nearly 30 countries have reported birth defects linked to Zika. WHO says more than 2,100 cases of nervous-system malformations have been reported in Brazil alone.

Zika is mainly spread by mosquitoes, but also can be spread through sex. Most infected people don't get sick. It can cause a mild illness, with fever, rash and joint pain.

Michigan Blood screening blood donations for Zika Virus

Michigan Blood will no longer defer potential donors if they have visited a Zika risk area.

In August, the FDA released guidelines requiring most blood centers across the nation test for the virus by Nov. 18. Michigan Blood plans to follow those requirements.

Instead, an extra tube of blood will be taken for testing and further screening. Donors must also weigh at least 112-pounds, instead of the previous 110-pound requirement.

The blood samples will be sent to Versiti, partners of Michigan Blood, at the Indiana Blood Center for the testing.

“The process for Zika is unlike anything we’ve ever done,” said Cindy Raven, MT (ASCP), CHS (ABHI), Director of Laboratories and Component Preparation for MI Blood.

She says the team in Indiana has been working hard to get the labs to where they need to be for this next phase. Laboratory staff are also being trained in new labeling techniques before the samples are sent south.

“It’s about the patients - providing the safest blood possible,” said Raven.

“It’s why we do what we do.”

Raven states that blood donations are even more important in the winter months. Residents of the Grand Rapids area can donate at the following locations:

Grand Rapids Area Donor Center
1036 Fuller Ave NE
Mondays-Thursdays from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Fridays from 6 a.m. to 1 p.m,
Saturdays from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Sundays from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. (by appointment only)

Grandville Donor Center - Grandville United Methodist Church
3140 Wilson Ave
Thursdays from 12 to 7 p.m.

For more information visit