Travelers returning from countries with ‘widespread’ COVID-19 asked not to donate blood, officials say

South Texas Blood & Tissue Center taking cautionary steps

GF Default - South Texas Blood and Tissue Center  issues emergency appeal for blood
GF Default - South Texas Blood and Tissue Center issues emergency appeal for blood

SAN ANTONIO – The South Texas Blood & Tissue Center is asking potential donors who have visited a country where there is “widespread” COVID-19, the illness caused by novel coronavirus, to delay their donation.

Maps have been posted in donor rooms, bloodmobiles and local blood drives with information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention detailing which countries are currently considered to have widespread COVID-19, according to a news release.

KSAT reached out to officials with STBTC who further clarified that the countries currently identified by the CDC as having widespread COVID-19 cases are Italy, China, South Korea and Iran.

Officials also told KSAT that STBTC is “trying to avoid what other states are experiencing,” in terms of cripplingly low blood supplies.

Donors who have traveled to one of the countries listed on the maps in the last 28 days are being asked to delay their donation as a “cautionary measure, since respiratory viruses are not known to be transmitted by blood donation or transfusion," the news release states.

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STBTC is still asking for blood donations from eligible donors, however, to help maintain an adequate blood supply as there is a constant demand for blood transfusions for cancer and surgery patients, mothers going through childbirth and people involved in accidents.

“Blood shortages put our community’s health at risk,” said Elizabeth Waltman, chief operating officer of STBTC. “If a COVID-19 outbreak would occur in South Texas, there could be fewer donors eligible to give blood."

There are currently no known cases of transfusion-transmitted COVID-19, according to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration.

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According to the news release, STBTC has the following safety measures in place to help prevent the spread of viruses:

  • Additional hand sanitizer stations have been installed at all locations.
  • Donor beds are sanitized before and after each donation, along with equipment and surfaces.
  • New donation kits (tubing, needles, etc.) are always used for each donor.
  • Staff members have been instructed to remain home if they are ill, until 24 hours after a fever has resolved.
  • Staff members have been instructed to avoid travel to locations where there are known outbreaks of COVID-19, and to self-quarantine, if they have visited a country the CDC has identified a site of a significant outbreak.

“Having blood already on the shelves would be essential to saving the lives of patients in need," Waltman said.

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