STBTC, local officials appeal to community for blood donations

April 25, 2016

Community and health care leaders appealed to South Texans to donate blood for multiple reasons on April 25.

Elizabeth Waltman, chief operating officer of the South Texas Blood & Tissue Center, joined Mayor Ivy Taylor, Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff and officials from San Antonio Metro Health Department, the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce and the U.S. Air Force on the steps of City Hall.

 “All the partners you see there today are working together to coordinate efforts to ensure the safety of our entire community,” Taylor said. “Our unified and proactive preparedness makes me proud to live here in San Antonio.”

Waltman noted that the spread of the Zika virus already has spurred concerns about the blood supply, and it has led STBTC to ask anyone who has traveled to areas of active Zika transmission to defer donating for 28 days after their return.

Zika is a mosquito-borne virus that has been linked to birth defects as well as neurological disorders like Guillain-Barré syndrome. The virus also can be spread via blood transfusions, in the laboratory and by sexual contact.

“Should Zika become widespread in Texas or other parts of the U.S., we will need to be supporting each other to ensure there is enough blood,” Waltman said.

QualTex Laboratories, a sister business unit to STBTC, has signed an agreement to implement testing of donated blood for the Zika virus. That process is expected to be in place by July 1.

QualTex does testing for STBTC and a number of other blood-collection agencies across the country.

But the Zika virus is not the only threat to public health. The pace of donations slows during the summer, since there are few schools in session and fewer community and business blood drives.

Fewer donations mean less blood for patients needing transfusions for everything from surgery to trauma to cancer treatment. And the decline is not just seasonal, Waltman said.

Elizabeth Waltman, STBTC COO“The national trend shows blood donations at the lowest level in 30 years,” she said. “The South Texas Blood & Tissue Center has seen a 21 percent reduction in blood donations since 2012.”

The trade association for U.S. blood banks, the AABB, reported last year that blood donations are at the lowest point since its recordkeeping began in 1980. Just 67 out of 1,000 people nationwide donated blood in 2013, the most recent survey year.

“On behalf the patients who depend on the generosity of the community to ensure adequate stock levels of blood, I ask that all businesses, schools, faith and community-based organizations support blood drives,” Waltman said.

Waltman also announced the official launch of the blood bank's Now More Than Ever campaign, which challenges our community to step up and give blood. To find out more about this effort, click here.