A spokesman for United Blood Services [UBS] in Cheyenne says a waiting period imposed to protect the blood supply from the zika virus is creating a blood shortage.

Justin Irish is a Donor Recruitment Representative with UBS. He says anyone who has traveled to the Caribbean, Mexico or South America, where the virus is common, has to wait 28 days before donating blood. Irish says the virus can live in the human body for 7-14 days, but because there is no test for the virus the 28 day waiting period has been imposed to be absolutely safe.

The virus, which is spread by mosquitoes, causes flu-like symptoms, or sometimes no symptoms at all in otherwise healthy people. But is is believed to cause serious birth defects in babies born to women who become infected

Because of that waiting period there is a 20 to 30 percent drop in blood donations in many U.S. communities along the Mexican border.

The shortage is being made worse by the fact that it is happening at the height of the cold and flu season. People suffering from those illnesses are also barred from donating blood

Irish says even in Wyoming donations are down between two and five percent, or about 75 donations for the month of March. Because of the shortages UBS is asking regular blood donors as well as those who haven't given blood before to donate.

Appointments to donate can be made at the UBS website or by calling 877-827-4376. Irish also says he wants to reassure those receiving blood that because of the precautions being taken the blood supply is safe from the virus.