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Red Cross urges blood donations amid concerns about coronavirus

With the first reported case of the coronavirus in Alabama, agencies are scrambling as the public waits to find out the ultimate impact of the pandemic.

The American Red Cross is strongly urging healthy, eligible individuals who are feeling well to give blood or platelets to help maintain a sufficient blood supply and prevent shortages as concerns about the outbreak of coronavirus, or COVID-19, rise in the U.S.

Cold and flu season have already impacted the nation’s ability to maintain its blood supply, according to Red Cross officials. As the number of coronavirus cases grows in the U.S., the number of people eligible to give blood for patients in need could decrease further.

“We’re asking the American people to help keep the blood supply stable during this challenging time. As communities across the country prepare for this public health emergency, it’s critical that plans include a readily-available blood supply for hospital patients,” said Chris Hrouda, president of Red Cross Blood Services. “As fears of coronavirus rise, low donor participation could harm blood availability at hospitals, and the last thing a patient should worry about is whether lifesaving blood will be on the shelf when they need it most.”

Donating blood, the Red Cross emphasizes, is a safe process, and people should not hesitate to give or receive blood.

No data or evidence show this coronavirus can be transmissible by blood transfusion, and there have been no reported cases worldwide of transmissions for any respiratory virus, including this coronavirus, from a transfusion.

The Red Cross only collects blood from individuals who are healthy and feeling well at the time of donation – and who meet other eligibility requirements, available at redcrossblood.org.

At each blood drive and donation center, Red Cross employees follow thorough safety protocols, including wearing gloves, routinely wiping down donor-touched areas, using sterile collection sets for every donation and preparing the arm for donation with an aseptic scrub. These mitigation measures help ensure blood recipient safety, as well as staff and donor safety in reducing contact with those who might potentially have this respiratory infection.

Blood drive hosts play important role
Blood drive hosts play a critical role in maintaining a sufficient blood supply and are asked to keep hosting blood drives for patients who rely on lifesaving blood.

The need for blood is constant, and volunteer donors are the only source of blood for those in need of transfusions.

The Red Cross, with the help of its blood drive hosts and blood donors, can help ensure the safety and availability of the U.S. blood supply for patients including accident and burn victims, heart surgery and organ transplant patients and those receiving treatment for leukemia, cancer or sickle cell disease.

“Keep giving, keep hosting blood drives,” said Hrouda. “Patients across the country need our help.”

To learn more about hosting a blood drive for patients in need, visit redcrossblood.org.

Red Cross stays committed to blood supply safety

The top priority of the Red Cross, according to officials, is “the safety of our valued staff, blood donors and blood recipients, and we are committed to transparency with the American public during this evolving public health emergency.”

The Red Cross has implemented new blood donation deferrals out of an abundance of caution. Individuals are asked to postpone their donation for 28 days following:

  • Travel to China and its special administrative regions, Hong Kong and Macau, as well as Iran, Italy and South Korea
  • Diagnosis of COVID-19 or contact with a person who has or is suspected to have the virus.

As the situation evolves, the Red Cross will continue to evaluate all emerging risks in collaboration with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and industry partners to determine if additional intervention strategies are needed.

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