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Healthy South Dakotans Urged to Give Blood, Despite Coronavirus Concerns

The American Red Cross says efforts to maintain the nation's blood supply usually are hindered by the flu season, and now it has to contend with coronavirus concerns as well. (Adobe Stock)
The American Red Cross says efforts to maintain the nation's blood supply usually are hindered by the flu season, and now it has to contend with coronavirus concerns as well. (Adobe Stock)
March 11, 2020

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. -- South Dakota residents are urged to keep giving blood so the nation's supplies don't run short amid coronavirus concerns.

This week, the American Red Cross announced donation restrictions for people who have traveled to certain countries or have had contact with someone who's been infected. Sue Thesenga, communications manager for the Red Cross in Minnesota, stressed that these measures are precautions, and said it's still safe for healthy individuals to donate blood.

"As concerns rise, there may be fewer people eligible to give blood, so we're encouraging people who are healthy and eligible to give blood now," she said. "We want to make sure that we maintain a sufficient blood supply and help prevent a shortage."

The restrictions include postponing donations for 28 days from people who have traveled to China, including the Hong Kong and Macau regions, as well as Iran, Italy and South Korea. Anyone who has had contact with an infected person, or is suspected of having the virus themselves, is asked to postpone donating blood, as they would with any other illness.

With older people being asked to limit their travel and avoid crowds, Thesenga said that might affect blood supplies, since this age group includes a lot of the annual donors.

"Typically, our demographic is older people," she said, "so we're encouraging people who maybe have never given blood before, who haven't recently, to give blood now."

The Red Cross also said there's no evidence that the virus is passed through a blood transfusion. In addition to the donation restrictions, donors and staff members are being asked to use hand sanitizer before entering a blood drive. Staff members also are being more vigilant in using protective gloves and wiping down areas that donors have touched.

More information is online at redcrossblood.org.

Mike Moen, Public News Service - SD