Measures taken by Memorial Blood Centers to stay prepared for the spread of H1N1 virus

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Memorial Blood Centers today outlined steps the organization is taking to stay prepared for the spread of the H1N1 virus and to ensure a safe experience for blood donors and an ample blood supply for our communities.

"As the H1N1 virus continues to spread, Memorial Blood Centers is taking every precaution to mitigate the potential impact of the pandemic on our staff, the generous volunteers who donate blood, and the patients in need who receive their life-saving gift," Jed Gorlin, MD, Medical Director and Vice President of Memorial Blood Centers, said. "In our own workplace, donor centers, and at community-sponsored blood drive sites, we strictly adhere to the latest infection control guidelines issued by leading health authorities. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers, prevention tips for donors and staff, and important information to address concerns regarding blood donation and the flu are all readily available."

Memorial Blood Centers urges all blood donors to be informed, take everyday actions to stay healthy, be alert to H1N1 flu symptoms, and continue to give the gift of life.

  • Blood donation and H1N1 virus are not related. H1N1 is an airborne virus and not spread by blood transfusion. Blood donors who are healthy and well are encouraged to continue to donate.
  • Blood is the ultimate renewable resource: the body replaces fluids within hours and red blood cells within three weeks.
  • There is no risk to donors of contracting an infectious disease through the donation process.
  • To ensure the safety of the blood supply, 14 tests are performed on each unit of donated blood -- 11 testing for infectious diseases. While there is no test for screening blood donors for the flu, blood transfusion is not a significant risk for acquiring the infection.

"Making a blood donation does not weaken the body or make it more susceptible to the flu," Dr. Gorlin advises. "In fact, there should be no effects -- either positive or negative -- on the ability to handle an infectious viral illness either before or after donating blood. Our bodies fight off the flu with a particular kind of white cell -- called lymphocyte -- which predominately lives in the lymph nodes, spleen, liver, etc. And less than 1% of our lymphocytes are removed with a blood collection."

Memorial Blood Centers continues to monitor the H1N1 situation closely and to work with the Hennepin County Preparedness task force, Minnesota Department of Health, Centers for Disease Control, and its hospital partners, regularly updating policies and procedures to ensure the health and well-being of staff, donors, and blood recipients alike.

"As an organization, we have strengthened our surveillance for early detection among employees and donors. We also have in place a pandemic flu plan and crisis plans that are reviewed weekly to assess current risks and modified as needed. Memorial Blood Centers is prepared to deal with the potential situations that may occur given the unpredictability of this growing pandemic," Dr. Gorlin concluded.

Fast Facts about Giving a Gift to Your Community:

Every two seconds, someone needs blood -- from heart transplant and cancer patients to accident victims in crises. Memorial Blood Centers faces a demand of over 2,700 units a week to meet the needs of more than 30 hospital partners. And making a donation is one way to give a potentially life-saving gift to friends, family, and community.

  1. All donations are processed and available for use within 24-48 hours.
  2. Each unit of blood can help up to three people.
  3. Since blood cannot be synthetically made, there is no substitute.
  4. Donating is safe, convenient, and takes only about 45 minutes, including registration and a mini-physical.

Donors 17 and older must be in good health and weigh at least 110 pounds; donors 16 years of age must weigh at least 130 pounds, be at least 5 feet tall, and have written parental consent. While walk-in donors are always welcome, appointments can be made in advance.

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