Story at a glance
- Healthy people are encouraged to give blood despite the coronavirus pandemic.
- There’s no evidence coronavirus can be spread through blood.
- Health screening at donation centers is robust.
Fears about the coronavirus are negatively impacting the nation's blood supply, and the Red Cross is making an urgent plea for donations.
"Over the last few days, the number of blood drive cancellations has risen precipitously,” says Jodi Sheedy, senior director of biomedical services communications for the American Red Cross.
To date, nearly 300 Red Cross blood drives have been canceled across the country due to coronavirus concerns, resulting in about 8,000 uncollected blood donations, says Sheedy. “Every two seconds, someone needs a blood transfusion — that someone may be a cancer patient, a car accident victim or a mother who has given birth," Sheedy says.
If you are worried about how safe it is to donate or receive blood donations due to concerns surrounding COVID-19, the Red Cross emphasizes there is no evidence that the novel coronavirus or any other respiratory viruses are transmitted by blood transfusions.
“We need people to start turning out in force to give blood,” says Dr. Peter Marks, director of the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, in a call for action, as fear about the coronavirus is apparently keeping people from donating blood.
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In his statement Thursday, Marks says, “We need people to prevent the blood supply from getting depleted. We need it not to get to the point that surgeries are having to get canceled. That’s something we absolutely do not want to have happen. To ensure an adequate blood supply we need people to come out and donate blood."
Out of an abundance of caution, the Red Cross is currently using a robust health screening process for blood donors in the U.S., according to Sheedy. This consists of a temperature check, blood pressure evaluation, hemoglobin level test and a series of questions designed to ensure that a donor is healthy enough to donate.
Sheedy also says, "Both staff and donors will be asked to use hand sanitizer before entering a drive and throughout the drive as needed. In addition, we are working quickly to implement standard staff health assessments prior to all blood drives to ensure staff are healthy the day of the drive. We are also increasing vigilance concerning some of our safety protocols including enhanced disinfecting of equipment and increased staff glove changes.”
The Red Cross says these mitigation measures will help ensure staff and donor safety.
Sheedy adds, "The Red Cross asks potential donors who may have any risk factors to postpone and donate at a later time. The Red Cross only collects blood from individuals who are healthy and feeling well at the time of donation. If a donor develops any symptoms of illness within the days following donation, donations are immediately quarantined and not used for transfusion. It’s important to emphasize that there are no data or evidence that this coronavirus can be transmitted by blood transfusion, and there have been no reported cases of transfusion transmission for any respiratory virus including this coronavirus worldwide."
Eligible individuals can schedule a blood or platelet donation appointment at RedCrossBlood.org or through https://americasblood.org/ to help maintain a sufficient blood supply and avoid any potential shortages.
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