As COVID-19 interrupts blood donation, govt issues guidelines for safe blood collection
New Delhi, Apr 09: In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic interrupting blood donation exercises, the National Blood Transfusion Council (NBTC) has issued interim recommendations to the states emphasising that voluntary blood donation and blood collection should continue judiciously even during the health crisis to ensure its availability to hospitals.
The moves comes as the central government has been apprised of concerns from several quarters about maintaining the safety and adequacy of blood during this period of restrained social gatherings, especially due to fears of transfusion transmission infection (TTI) as virus in blood has been detected in symptomatic patients with COVID-19.
The NBTC comes under the ambit of the Union health ministry. Director of NBTC, Dr Shobini Ranjan, has written to all State AIDS Control Societies and State Blood Transfusion Councils to adopt the guidelines to their specific needs and accordingly direct professionals engaged in blood transfusion services to facilitate maintenance of adequate stocks of safe blood to meet requirements. "Blood centres world over are dependent on voluntary blood donation from healthy individuals to meet their blood supplies.
Since there continues to be a demand for blood and blood components, especially for those patients depending on blood transfusions as a life-saving measure, like thalassemics or to mitigate blood loss in accident victims, pregnant women, etc. it is essential that supplies of safe blood continues to be maintained at licensed blood centres in the country," she said. Ranjan clarified that no cases of transfusion-transmission were ever reported for the other two coronaviruses -- SARS and MERS-CoV -- that emerged during the past two decades. Virus in blood has only been detected in symptomatic patients with COVID-19. During the COVID-19 pandemic, there are national and global reports of apprehensions among potential blood donors and donor organisations with respect to risk of contracting the infection through blood donation camps and visiting blood centres to donate blood, she said.
"Individuals are not at risk of contracting COVID-19 through the blood donation process or via a blood transfusion since respiratory viruses are generally not known to be transmitted by donation or transfusion," she said.
The American Association of Blood Banks, US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Centre for Disease Control (CDC) are not recommending any additional action by blood collection establishments at this time because there is no data or precedent suggesting risk of transfusion transmission for COVID-19. Social distancing being advocated for preventing the spread of COVID-19 is also interrupting congregations for blood donation. If people do not turn out to donate at blood centres or camp locations, there is likelihood of shortfall of blood supplies which may be detrimental to those who are in urgent need of blood and blood components, according to experts.
"Alongside, there are also queries from various blood centres with respect to temporary deferral criteria for blood donors in light of the pandemic. The WHO guidance on the issue is yet to be released. Nevertheless, it is imperative to define such criteria to maintain the safety of donated blood, donor and patient safety," Ranjan said while issuing the interim recommendations.
The recommendations include exclusion of at-risk donors to maintain safety and management of blood collection to ensure adequacy.
According to the recommendations, individuals should be deferred from donating blood for 28 days after the date of departure from a country facing COVID-19 transmission in the community or if they had come in contact with a COVID-19 confirmed or suspected person.
"It is also recommended that in-house blood donation as well as outdoor blood donation activities may be continued, while ensuring compliance with social distancing norms, infection control guidelines and biomedical waste disposal rules. This is to be ensured not only by the staff of the blood centres, but also by organizers, potential blood donors and other stakeholders," the interim guidelines read. Proper social distancing measures should be followed at the blood donation sites apart from infection control measures, hand hygiene and safe disposal of medical waste, it said.