Blood Banks Are Getting Safer


Blood Banks Are Getting Safer Essay, Research Paper



As spokesperson for the American Red Cross, I would like to address the public s rapidly growing concern over our nation s blood supply. The population of our country must abate their fears regarding contamination of our blood supply from the AIDS virus and hepatitis. Since the early nineteenth century the United States has used intravenous administration from a donor to a recipient for blood transfusions. The Red Cross prerequisites for safeguarded and reliable blood transfusions involves knowledge of donor screening and selection, and most importantly testing for the presence of antibodies for AIDS, and testing for retroviral infections specifically Hepatitis B.

Initially, safety in blood transfusions translates into highly effective donor screening and selection, as well as pretransfusion testing for the presence of transmissible and infectious diseases in the donor s blood. Today blood transfusions are one of medicines safest procedures in comparison to American s dying from Salmonella in bad chicken or complications from a general anesthesia ( Blood Supply Safer 16). Likewise, the United States volunteer blood collection program lowers the likelihood of infected donors. Epidemiologists recognize high-risk groups at blood banks secluding them which enables their collections to be separately tested ( Measures to Protect Blood Supply 31). A precaution for all blood donors limits donation frequency to five times a year which is equivalent to 480 ml or one pint of blood every eight weeks preventing the increased incidence of iron deficiencies (Encarta 96). The Red Cross collects all blood into sterile bags containing anticoagulants and preservative nutrients to prevent contamination with additional samples sent for stringent control testing. At the present time their is no conclusive synthetic replacement for blood or red blood cells, therefore the compatibility of antigens, RH factors, antibodies, and disease free transfused blood does and will continue to ensure high survival rates.

The American Red Cross blood bank facilities collect and determine the blood type and process the stored blood under sterile conditions, assigning a uniquely individual bar code number labeled on each unit of blood (Encarta 96). Blood antigens, grouping, and corresponding antibodies are characteristically screened through an efficiently coordinated procedure in regional and community blood centers and laboratories throughout the country. Due to this differentiated, precise blood typing and identification, incorrect assignment of blood from donor to recipient is extremely rare. The control samples are sent on for additional viral testing for the AIDS virus and Hepatitis B prior to release of any blood products.

Today America s government and blood banks are prepared to deal with the risks of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) which attacks the human immune system and can be transmitted through blood transfusions because of our critically accurate check system in place and support from the FDA and Congress. Public awareness without ignorance and fear is essential in dealing with the AIDS uprising. The evolution of this epidemic will not affect our blood donation when over 14,000,000 blood components are transfused yearly in the United States ( Blood Supply Safer 16). Statistics reported in USA Today report over twenty percent of HIV infections in adults is found in North America and South America, yet only one hundred infections in 1995 were related to blood components from transfusions ( Blood Supply Safer 16.) The Red Cross promises all people, young or old, to continue to work with government agencies to lower these numbers. Because the course the HIV infection must travel may take from six to ten years or more for the actual appearance of the systemic disease, researchers are protecting our blood banks by monitoring surrogate markers using laboratory data associated with the HIV progression (Perrow and Guillen 42). Our country has one of the most sophisticated blood screening processes in place to secure and protect our population from this virus. The research group initially led by Robert Gallo has further developed tests that will detect serum antibodies against the HIV virus indicating an individual s exposure to the virus (Encarta 96). Each year in the United States millions of samples of blood are screened in blood banks, plasma centers, and laboratories using separate tests to detect the different protein components in HIV-1 and HIV-2. In addition, due to the four to eight week time lapse from exposure to the HIV virus to developing a positive HIV test, other methods have been developed to detect other components of the virus rather than only positive identification of the antibodies (Perrow and Guillen 38-9). All of these provisions combined with precise quality control are identification measures in place to protect our blood supply against future new strains of the HIV virus from around the world. Through research and new technology the Red Cross projects to continue lowering the national statistics by providing our population with increased confidence in our nation s blood supply.

The Red Cross is also subjecting all donated blood to tests for the retroviral infection caused by Hepatitis B. Because the liver is inflamed during Hepatitis B, with liver enlargement and jaundice developing, chronic carriers may develop permanent liver damage. Symptoms found in Hepatitis B infections are fever, darkly colored urine, loss of appetite, and highly elevated liver enzymes and bilirubin levels (DeVincent-Hayes 20). Once again the essential and rigorous donor screening as well as collected units of blood being subjected to testing for the presence of Hepatitis B antibodies should largely reduce public apprehension regarding infection from donated blood supplies. Due to Hepatitis B s strong resistance level to sterilization, the Red Cross is equipped with all updated techniques to prevent the donor and recipient from contamination. Since the American Medical Association and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are emphatically encouraging all children and adults to be vaccinated by the Hepatitis B vaccine, the Red Cross projects that the statistic of one case of Hepatitis B in every 5000 units of transfused blood will decrease dramatically (DeVincent-Hayes 21).

The safety of our nation s blood banks remains a top priority with the Red Cross and our government. This serious responsibility shared by all medical professionals must continue to reach higher health and safety criteria for all individuals whether they are a hemophiliac, a pregnant mother and her unborn child, or a senior citizen preparing for open heart surgery. Physicians must continue to instruct and encourage patients able to donate their own blood prior to surgery to do so, promoting autologous blood donation. The cause of our nation s alarm and even dread of the need for a blood transfusion must be laid to rest completely by the beginning of the twenty-first century. Through the Red Cross educational and informational programs we will do this, as well as keep our promise for the highest regard for individuals health rights through continued quality safeguards and future technological advances to protect our nation s blood supply.

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