The world’s developing nations have a need for a safe blood supply. According to American Red Cross, as of 2005, of the estimated 80 million units of blood donated annually world wide, only 38 percent were collected in the developing world where 82 percent of the world’s population lives.
The lack of a safe blood supply in these areas is a serious concern. The American Red Cross says unsafe transfusions severely impact women with complications of pregnancy, trauma victims, and children with severe life-threatening anemia. The organization says up to 150 thousand pregnancy-related deaths could be avoided each year through access to safe blood.
According to the Red Cross, every minute of every day, someone needs blood. That blood can only come from a donor. This is a very select group: Only three out of every 100 people in America donate blood.
Executive Director of American Red Cross Athens Chapter Pamela Martino says her mother had cancer and needed a lot of blood during one surgery.
Hocking College Student Mariah Reed, who attended the blood donation yesterday at her school, said: “I know of friends who have family members that do need blood.”
Safety Problem Draws Attention
According to the National Blood Collection and Utilized Survey, blood collections in the United States totaled 16.2 million units in 2006. The total number of units transfused was 14.7 million. The total number of all components transfused in 2006 was just over 30 million units. Medical advances have improved the treatment of serious illnesses and injuries and sunsequently have increased the need for blood and blood products.
But a recent problem with tainted blood from a Missouri donor resulted in a Colorado patient contracting the HIV virus. That case has raised concerns.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it was the first U.S. case in eight years of HIV transmission through blood transfusion. The CDC said the donor did not divulge risky sexual practices before donating blood, and that the infection at that time may have been undetected anyway because it was still in its early stages.
The agency’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report also found that the blood from the same donor was transfused to a heart patient in Arkansas who died two days after receiving the blood, but it was not proven if that patient also contracted HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
The CDC says the name of the patient has not been released as most of this case is covered by patient privacy laws. The CDC said it’s unknown if that patient contracted HIV.
The Red Cross South Team Supervisor Keith Dennis said that getting the virus from blood transfusions remains exceedingly rare, estimating the risk to be about one in 1.5 million.
“There is a slight possibility anytime you receive blood that something can slip through,” Dennis said.
According to the Report, the contaminated blood in the Missouri incident was not from the Red Cross. Dennis said that the Red Cross has strict blood tests before donors give blood.
“We run all the tests every time they donate to make sure everything is safe,” he said. “People should never be afraid to give blood and they should never be afraid of receiving blood.”
Blood and Donor Safety
The Red Cross is committed to protecting the safety of both donors and potential recipients of donated blood.
Donating blood is a safe and easy process.
It is not possible to get AIDS or other infectious diseases by giving blood. A sterile, disposable needle is used for each blood donation. Once used, the needle is discarded.
Feeling faint or fatigued after donating blood is rare or minor. If it occurs, it most likely will pass in a matter of hours.
You can only donate if your health history permits and you feel well. You are asked some health questions and are given a mini physical — temperature, pulse, blood pressure, and red cell count check - prior to donation to ensure that you are feeling well and that it is safe for you to give blood.
Your health history and test results are confidential and cannot be given out without your permission, except as required by law.
You can help ensure your experience is a positive and rewarding one:
Stay in the canteen area for the requested period of time; mention to the staff any unusual feelings or sensations; and avoid strenuous exercise or heavy lifting for about 5 hours after donating.
Assuring the safety of the blood supply is a high-tech process requiring rigorous testing, proper processing, labeling, and storage, and careful quality control. To help ensure that the blood is as safe as possible, the American Red Cross:
Accepts donations only from voluntary blood donors
Provides information about high-risk behaviors associated with transmissible diseases that may impact one's ability to donate blood
Conducts a behavioral and health history interview and a mini physical exam with all donors prior to donation
Provides a confidential 800-number donors can call with any questions or concerns post donation
Tests every donation* for infectious diseases, including HIV, hepatitis B and C virus, syphilis, and other infectious diseases, and discards units which have abnormal test results
Invests in research and technology to support the development of new and more sophisticated tests
To find out where you can donate and check whether you are able to donate blood, visit www.redcrossblood.org/ or call 1-800-GIVE-LIFE (1-800-448-3543).