The Puerto Rico Department of Health and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that suspected cases of dengue have hit an epidemic level.
As of September, more than 4,800 suspected cases of dengue have been reported in Puerto Rico so far in 2012 and at least six people have died from the disease. In just one week last month, 342 new cases were reported. Dengue is an infectious disease transmitted by mosquitoes and characterized by severe pains in the joints and back, fever and rash.
American Red Cross Biomedical Services collects and distributes blood in Puerto Rico, and layers of safety are in place to prevent the spread of dengue through blood transfusion. The Red Cross performs more than 12 laboratory tests for multiple infectious disease markers on every unit of donated blood, including very sensitive nucleic acid testing (NAT) that checks for mosquito-borne illnesses like dengue and West Nile Virus. In fact, the Red Cross is the first and currently only blood collection organization testing for dengue in Puerto Rico. The test is part of an investigational study of a new test for detection of the viral nucleic acid in blood donors.
“Blood that tests positive for any disease is destroyed or used for research,” said Dr. Richard Benjamin, chief medical officer for the Red Cross. We continually invest in research and technology to support the development of new and more sophisticated tests.”
In addition to the layers of safety in place to protect patients who receive blood, precautions are also in place to protect the safety of blood donors. It is not possible to get dengue or other infectious diseases by giving blood. Every two seconds, someone in the U.S. needs blood. That need can be met only through the generosity of volunteer donors, and each donation can help save more than one life.
BLOOD DONATION ELIGIBILITY Individuals who are 17 years of age (16 with parental permission in some states), weigh at least 110 pounds and are in generally good health may be eligible to donate blood. High school students and other donors 18 years of age and younger also have to meet certain height and weight requirements.
HOW TO GIVE To schedule a donation time, or for more information about giving blood, people can call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or visit redcrossblood.org. A blood donor card or driver’s license, or two other forms of identification are required at check-in.