Let us not let Covid-19 hinder our efforts to help those who are in need of blood
AND ASSOC PROF DR TAN TOH LEONG
The emergence of the SARS- COV-2 virus is like a tsunami to healthcare services globally.
The reduction in the capacity of intensive care services which often hits the headline is definitely not the only problem faced by the healthcare providers. A shortage at the blood bank is one of the problems that arises from this pandemic.
The Malaysia National Blood Bank has reported a 20 per cent to 30 per cent reduction in blood supply compared to the pre-pandemic era.
The reduction is attributed to the fact that organising blood donation campaigns during this pandemic is definitely more challenging than before. Other reasons could be the public’s concern over the risks of contracting the Covid-19 virus.
So, what are the efforts to reduce the risk of transmission?
All blood donation booths are now equipped with screening counters which screen through all donors. Potential donors are screened for history of potential exposure to Covid-19 within the last 14 days, body temperature and lastly, Covid-19 related symptoms.
Those who are deemed at risk would be refrained from donating blood.
How about those who are carrying the virus but remain asymptomatic? Well, as for now there is no case reported globally on the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 virus through blood transfusion.
Based on a study conducted by the French national blood service, although the transmission via blood products cannot be totally excluded, the presence of SARS-CoV-2 virus in the blood for asymptomatic individuals is extremely scarce.
Even if it is detected, the virus level is too low and therefore not infectious. Due to this reason, prior testing for Covid -19 is not required for a donor.
However, to ensure safety, donors are advised to report to the blood bank if they experience any Covid-19 related symptoms or tested positive for Covid-19 within 14 days after a blood donation.
The blood of these donors will be discarded as soon as the blood bank receives notification.
As for now, more than 500,000 Malaysians have been infected by the SARS- COV-2 virus. The question arises whether these ex-Covid-19 patients can donate blood?
The good news is, YES! Ex-Covid patients are allowed to donate blood 14 days after they have recovered from the disease. Although the SARS COV-2 virus may be detected in the upper respiratory specimen for up to 12 weeks, the infectivity of the SARS COV-2 declines after the onset of the symptoms.
Blood donation a community responsibility
In fact, in cases of mild to moderate Covid-19 duplicate-competent virus is not recovered after 10 days from the onset of symptoms.
Does transfusion of blood products from ex-Covid-19 donors confer immunity towards SARS-COV-2 virus? At this point of time, there is no robust evidence to support this theory. The benefits and risks are yet to be found out with more clinical research in the future.
All in all, blood donation is a community responsibility. Let us not let Covid-19 hinder our efforts to help those who are in need. With the full adherence to standard operating procedures by both the public and organising committee, the risks of contracting SARS-COV-2 can definitely be reduced. — The Health
Dr Susan Loo Pooi San is Emergency Physician, Teluk Intan Hospital and member of Malaysian Sepsis Alliance (MySepsis) while Associate Professor Dr Tan Toh Leong is a Senior Lecturer and Consultant Emergency Physician at Hospital Canselor Tuanku Muhriz, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia. He is also President and Founder of MySepsis.