Blood Banks Need January Donors

From - January 9, 2018

Blood Banks Need January Donors

TUESDAY, Jan. 9, 2018 -- Want to make a difference right now? Consider donating some blood.

That's the suggestion of experts from Penn State Health's Milton S. Hershey Medical Center.

Blood bank supplies tend to be low in January because the holidays and the season's typically inclement weather often keep people from going to a donation site. But, donating blood or blood products, like platelets, is a relatively quick and easy way to make a real difference in the lives of people with serious health problems.

"A lot of donors say it makes them feel very fulfilled," Dr. Melissa George, medical director of the center's blood bank, said in a hospital news release. "Sometimes there are people who need specific platelets that only some donors have, so those donors feel a sense of pride at being called upon to help."

Because blood shortages often occur at the beginning of a new year, the American Red Cross has dubbed January "National Blood Donor Month."

Still, some people wo not donate because they have a fear of needles. Others wrongly assume that donations are being made by other people and their blood is not needed, explained Gwen Howell, the blood bank's chief technologist.

This does not bode well for people treated in emergency rooms for injuries and accidents who desperately need blood. People with cancer, transplant recipients, premature babies and others also may need transfusions.

To protect the health of those who get blood transfusions, donated blood is screened for HIV, hepatitis C and other agents of infection and disease, such as Zika virus. Donors also complete surveys and answer questions that could help doctors identify potential risks.

"We identify any potential risk categories and test for different viral markers," Howell said.

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