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Emerging infectious disease agents and blood safety in Australia: spotlight on Zika virus

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The ongoing threat of new transfusion hazards requires vigilance to protect the safety of the blood supply. In Australia, the estimated transfusion transmission residual risks (RRs) for the major transfusion-relevant viruses — hepatitis B virus, human immunodeficiency virus, hepatitis C virus and human T-lymphotropic virus — have now been reduced to very small probabilities. The current RRs are less than one in 1 000 000 per unit transfused for each virus.1 These very low risk levels are due to a combination of a pre-donation questionnaire designed to identify donors at risk of infection, and universal donor screening for these viruses. However, over the past 20 years, there has been an increased awareness, both internationally and in Australia, of the potential threat to blood safety due to emerging infectious disease (EID) agents.2,3 A number of EID agents of relevance to blood safety in Australia are listed in Box 1. The public health implications of EID agents have received a renewed focus due to the 2015–16 outbreak of Zika virus (ZIKV) in the Americas, which has gained an extraordinary level of media coverage; has been the subject of numerous position statements, recommendations and risk assessments from public health organisations and government health departments; and has elicited considerable…