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FDA: Halt Blood Donations In Dade, Broward Amid Possible Zika Outbreak

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Federal officials are asking all blood donations be halted in Miami-Dade and Broward County as they investigate possibly locally acquired cases of the Zika virus in South Florida.

On Wednesday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration made the request to blood establishments in both counties – a day after non-travel related cases doubled to four.

"In consideration of the possibility of an emerging local outbreak of Zika virus, and as a prudent measure to help assure the safety of blood and blood products, FDA is requesting that all blood establishments in Miami-Dade County and Broward County cease collecting blood immediately," the department said in a statement.

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Officials said this will remain in place until the blood establishments implement testing to find if Zika is present in the donated blood in both counties.

CBS4's Hank Tester passed by a OneBlood donation location along Hollywood Boulevard on Thursday afternoon and found they were open but were not taking blood donations. Otherwise, staffers were in the dark about the shutdown as reflected in this statement from OneBlood's corporate headquarters:

"OneBlood received an unanticipated announcement from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on July 28th after its operations for the day were already underway, requesting collections to cease in Miami-Dade and Broward counties.  The guidance was issued in light of the Florida Department of Health investigating four possible non-travel related cases of the Zika virus. OneBlood is working as quickly as possible to comply with the FDA's request. Safety of the blood supply is OneBlood's top priority."

Furthermore, the FDA is also asking surrounding counties to implement the same "precautions" for their donated blood supply as soon as possible.

Donors who have traveled to Miami-Dade County or Broward within the last month are asked to be deferred from donating.

Meantime, the investigation continues to find out how those four non-travel related cases got the virus.

Some locals are worried, knowing there are nearly 150 reported cases of the Zika virus in Florida.

"Wow, oh I had no idea they could not take blood," said Gary Bright.

This week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)  issued updated recommendations on how to prevent the spread of the virus that has been linked to birth defects. Health experts say it can spread through sexual contact or infected mosquitoes.

The Florida Health Department said Zika prevention kits and repellent are being distributed in the areas where the four possible non-travel cases are located. It also said they are available through local OBGYNs and the Departments of Health in Miami-Dade and Broward County.

According to the Department of Health hotline, the kits are not being distributed yet, because they aren't ready. Once they are, pregnant women in affected zip codes will receive them. They will also appear at doctors offices and the health department.

Click here for more information on the Zika virus or here for more Zika-related stories.

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