2/04/03 - Blood Supply Threat

Blood Supply Threat

By: Wendy Ray

The American Red Cross and other health agencies report a problem with the blood supply that's given to Heartland counties.

A lab technician found mysterious white specks in donated blood from the Tennessee Valley Region. That region is based out of Nashville, but affects several counties in Southeast Missouri, Southern Illinois, and Western Kentucky. Now, all blood donations have been quarantined. The Red Cross still doesn't know what the white particles are, or what caused them, or if that contaminated blood made it to the Heartland!

The tiny white particles may not look like a big deal, but they're causing a lot of concern. Daniel Hopwood, director of the Tennessee Valley Region in Paducah says, "We've had to quarantine about 70 percent of our blood supply and it's had a tremendous impact. It's at a very critical level right now."

Hopwood and other American Red Cross officials don't know what the white particles are yet, but they don't believe they're dangerous, or infectious. 110 contaminated bags were found in Atlanta Friday. A few days later, ten bags with the white specks were found somewhere in the Tennessee Valley Region.

All of the particles were found in blood bags manufactured by Baxter International. There has been speculation the particles came from the bags the blood was stored in. "All we know now is apparently it's from one bag manufacturer. We've switched to another manufacturer so we know the blood we collect now is okay," Hopwood says.

The contamination threat has the Red Cross scrambling to bring in more donors to make up for the units that can't be used. "Hopefully we can get inventory up so we won't have so many affects. It could cause postponement of elective surgeries if we don't get the inventory up. We need 100 percent not 30 percent so our task is to build that supply up as quickly as we can," Hopwood says.

The American Red Cross and Baxter International, the company that manufactured the bags, are testing the blood supply. Again, no medical problems with the blood have been reported.