Blood transfusion is an essential part of patient care. When used correctly, it improves health and saves lives However, blood transfusion carries a potential risk of acute or delayed complications and transfusion-transmitted infections.
The risk of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 through blood and components has not been determined. However, respiratory viruses have never been reported to be transmitted by blood transfusion, including coronaviruses like SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV.
Current donor selection and screening measures should also exclude any individual who is not in good health or with symptoms and signs of fever or respiratory disease – common cold, flu or influenza over the past 14 days. Although there are uncertainties regarding the presence of viraemia in asymptomatic individuals (e.g., during incubation period, asymptomatic infection or after symptom resolution), any potential risk of transmission from blood collected from such individuals is theoretical.
In the absence of demonstrable transmission through transfusion, any actions taken to contain risk are purely precautionary. Available options include donor education, self-deferral or deferral of at-risk donors, quarantine of blood components, laboratory testing, and pathogen reduction.
Although potential donors are generally in good health, it is possible that an infected donor who is asymptomatic, pre-symptomatic or with very mild symptoms may infect other donors and staff during blood donation.
Strategies taken to contain this risk should be proportionate and evidencebased, and should follow the public health measures taken in the country.
The number of potential blood donors available may decrease due to infection in potential donors, their families and contacts, restrictions on movement including public health requirements for quarantine, and the unwillingness of some individuals to donate through fear of being infected by being in close contact with others. With widespread community transmission, healthy uninfected potential donors are also less available to donate blood, due to closure of organizations, workplaces, universities, transport restrictions, community quarantine and other social distancing measures.
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