Blood donation centers make plea for donors among nationwide shortage

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Blood donation centers in Northern California have issued an urgent plea for donors to come forward to address a severe nationwide blood shortage aggravated by the Zika virus.

"I haven't donated before, so I just thought I'd come in," blood donor Paymon Shabod said.

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Donors say they heeded the call for bags of blood in the midst of a severe national shortage. "It is a normal, yearly thing we tend to see a decrease in the summer months, schools aren't in session, people travel. On top of that we have Zika virus," American Red Cross donation recruitment spokesperson Justin Mueller said.

Zika means donors are turned away if they've traveled in the last month to south and Central American countries, and many Caribbean and South Pacific islands.

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But the American Red Cross is ready to soon deploy a device already being used at the National Institute of Health and in Brazil and Puerto Rico.

It's made by Cerus, a Concord-based technology company that can zap Zika in platelets and plasma with UVA light. "This inactivates Zika as well as many and other blood-borne pathogens that are important, both viruses, bacteria, parasites like Malaria," Cerus' Senior Vice President and Chief Medical Officer Laurence Corash, M.D., said.

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The technology will soon be rolled out on the West Coast to boost the blood supply. What's helping Northern California through this shortage are interfaith community blood drives that every July successfully helps fill the void.

That and donors like one woman who was using a new Red Cross app to see where her blood ends up.

"They told me about the app, so I downloaded it. I thought it was really cool, so I thought it would be fun to track the blood and that's not something I've been able to do before," blood donor Tina Nettleton said.

Every pint of blood can potentially help three patients in need of it.

For full coverage on the Zika virus, click here.
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