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Protecting Blood Supply From SARS


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Protecting the nation's blood suppply is a never-ending task. The latest concern is that the SARS virus could be passed on through blood.

Lisa Bloch/ Blood Centers of the Pacific: AT THIS POINT, SCIENTISTS DON'T KNOW IF IT IS, BUT THEY ARE SAYING IT'S THEORETICALLY POSSIBLE. SO THEY ARE TAKING THIS VERY CONSERVATIVE APPROACH TO PROTECT THE BLOOD SUPPLY."

Because there is no simple test yet that can identify the presence of the virus, organziations like Blood Centers of the Paciric are adding a few extra questions to their already lenghty questionnaires.

They are trying ot identify three groups of people.

LISA BLOCH: "PEOPLE WHO HAVE SARS OBVIOUSLY OR ARE SUSPECTED OF HAVING SARS, PEOPLE WHO HAVE COME INTO CONTACT WITH PEOPLE WITH SARS OR SUPSECTED SARS, OR SOMEONE WHO HAS VISITED A SARS COUNTRY AS DETERMINED BY THE CDC."

The bad news is answering yes to any of those questions could mean blood banks having to turn away people at a time when every donor is desperately needed.

The good news is that the deferral is only for a short time-- one month for people who have had the infection, two weeks for someone potentially exposed. So far Blood Centers of the Pacific have not had to turn anyone away, but they are getting lots of questions about SARS and blood.

So their biggest task right now is reassuring everyone.

LISA BLOCH: "WE TRY TO GET THE MESSAGE OUT THAT IT REALLY DOESN'T TAKE A LOT OF TIME, THAT IT DOESN'T HURT, AND MAKES SUCH A DIFFERENCE."

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