Friday, March 20, 2020

Blood and organ donations shrink amid coronavirus fears

Anxiety over transmission is curbing donations to dangerous levels, but research shows the risk is negligible.

A blood bag fills during a donation.
Photograph by Matthias Bein, Picture-Alliance, DPA via AP Images

By Douglas Main

The U.S. Surgeon General yesterday pleaded with Americans to keep donating blood, as the nation’s supplies are already running low amid fears stoked by the coronavirus pandemic.

“You'll be helping your country and your community during this crisis. And you might even save a life,” Surgeon General Jerome Adams said in a press conference on Thursday.

Medical experts say that blood drives and donations have already dropped off significantly. In the last few days, more than 4,000 scheduled blood drives have been cancelled, in part due to closings at the schools and workplaces where these drives are usually held.

That equates to 130,00 fewer blood donations, says Kate Fry, CEO of America’s Blood Centers, a nonprofit whose member organizations collect a majority of the nation’s blood supply. She adds that some blood banks around the country are already running low, and the materials have a short shelf life: 42 days for red blood cells and five days for platelets, the cell fragments in blood that form clots to help prevent bleeding.

The epidemic is also changing the organ donation and transplant landscape. Transplantations for urgent conditions are continuing as usual, but some less critical operations are being put on hold.  Read more >>