FDA lists steps for protecting blood supply from SARS

Apr 21, 2003 (CIDRAP News) – The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is warning blood-collection agencies not to accept blood from people who have been in places hard-hit by SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) until 2 weeks after their return to the United States.

In guidelines announced Apr 17, the FDA also advises blood agencies to encourage people who have already given blood to report any SARS-related exposure that occurred within 14 days before their donation or SARS illness or treatment that occurred within 28 days before their donation.

The FDA said it is not known whether SARS can be transmitted through blood and called the guidelines an interim measure to protect the blood supply while more is learned about the disease.

The agency recommends "limited additional questioning of potential donors" to determine if they have an increased risk of SARS because of recent travel to high-risk areas or exposure to a person who has SARS or suspected SARS. The areas currently considered high-risk are China, including Hong Kong; Hanoi, Vietnam; and Singapore.

Healthy people who have been in those places should not be allowed to give blood until they have been back in the United States for 14 days, the FDA said. "Those who have suffered from an acute case of SARS, as evidenced by a combination of symptoms and travel history, will be deferred from donating until 28 days after their symptoms are resolved and any treatment is completed," officials said.

"At this time, there are no known cases of SARS transmission via blood products," the FDA statement said. "However, detection of the genes of the possible causative virus in blood has been reported in a patient with SARS. Also, as in some other viral infections, persons with SARS could potentially have virus in their blood early in infection without any symptoms. Therefore, transfusion transmission of SARS may be possible."

The precautions are expected to affect only 0.1% to 0.2% of potential donors and therefore are likely to have a minimal effect on the amount of blood available, the FDA said.

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