South Texas Blood taking steps to protect donors and maintain blood supply in case of coronavirus spread

March 10, 2020

The South Texas Blood & Tissue Center (STBTC), a subsidiary of BioBridge Global, has taken additional steps to protect blood donors and to maintain an adequate blood supply in preparation for the possible further spread of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) in the United States.

STBTC is asking all donors to disclose any travel to countries where COVID-19, the illness caused by the new coronavirus, has been widespread. Maps based on information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have been posted in donor rooms, on bloodmobiles and at community and business-based blood drives.

If a donor has been to one of the areas of widespread illnesses within the last 28 days, he or she is being asked to delay donation. This is being done as a cautionary measure, since respiratory viruses are not known to be transmitted by blood donation or transfusion.  

STBTC is asking healthy, eligible individuals to donate blood, and encouraging all organizations with scheduled blood drives to continue to hold those drives to maintain an adequate blood supply. There is a constant demand for blood transfusions for cancer and surgery patients, people involved in accidents and mothers going through childbirth.

“Blood shortages put our community’s health at risk,” said Elizabeth Waltman, Chief Operating Officer of STBTC. “There are areas of the country where shortages have led to the postponement of surgeries and blood supplies being rationed.

“If a COVID-19 outbreak would occur in South Texas, there could be fewer donors eligible to give blood,” she said. “Having blood already on the shelves would be essential to saving the lives of patients in need.”

The U.S. Food & Drug Administration continues to report that there have been no cases of suspected transfusion-transmitted COVID-19 to date. Also, there have been no reported cases of transfusion-transmission for the other two coronaviruses that emerged during the past two decades, SARS, the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus, and MERS-CoV, which causes Mideast Respiratory Syndrome.

STBTC is sharing information about COVID-19 with donors, highlighting processes that prevent the spread of germs.

As always, all potential blood donors have a wellness check, including having their temperature taken, before donating to make sure they’re not running a fever, which is a symptom of both COVID-19 and the flu.

Donors are asked to contact the center if they begin to feel ill after donating.

STBTC also has safety measures in place at all donor rooms and blood drives to help prevent the spread of viruses, including:

  • Additional hand sanitizer stations have been installed at all locations.
  • Donor beds are sanitized before and after 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.