Young blood donors needed

The number of blood donors in the Czech Republic is falling

World Blood Donation Day is June 14. While it brings awareness to the issue, the World Health Organization (WHO) likes to remind people that blood is needed every day. People also should not wait until disaster strikes as the first few hours are crucial and blood can be needed urgently. A half liter of blood can save up to three lives.

“Blood transfusion saves lives and improves health, but many patients requiring transfusion do not have timely access to safe blood. The need for blood transfusion may arise at any time in both urban and rural areas. The unavailability of blood has led to deaths and many patients suffering from ill-health. An adequate and reliable supply of safe blood can be assured by a stable base of regular, voluntary, unpaid blood donors. Regular, voluntary, unpaid blood donors are also the safest group of donors as the prevalence of bloodborne infections is lowest among these donors,” the WHO states.

There are more than 290,000 donors in the Czech Republic, which has a population of 10.55 million. That works out to 2.75 percent. Dr. Petr Turek, head of the transfusion department at Thomayerova Teaching Hospital told daily Pražský deník that the Czech figures were not bad, but nobody can set an ideal level as events leading to the need for blood are unpredictable.

As a guideline, blood donation by 1 percent of the population can meet a nation’s most basic requirements for blood, according to the WHO. More would be better, though.

“The World Health Organization is quoted as saying that each country should have 40 donors per thousand inhabitants. But no one in the world has this. We have about 28 per thousand, and that's enough to cover our needs,” Dr. Turek said.

Over the past decade, the register of blood donors has been shrinking due to older people no longer giving for various reasons and a lack of younger people joining to replace them. Dr. Turek said that getting the word out to younger people about the need to give blood is crucial to solving the problem. 

Dr Turek said that many young people think blood can be synthesized artificially, but this is not the case. Plasma, blood cells, and platelets all are needed from donors and can't be made from scratch with chemicals or otherwise created.

There are also restrictions that stand in the way, Dr. Turek said. People cannot give blood for half a year after getting a tattoo, for example. But tattoos are done to a higher safety standard now and carry less risk of disease. There are also restrictions relating to visiting places that have had mad cow disease, but these have become outdated since the disease has become very rare. These restrictions should be examined, Dr. Turek added. People who have traveled to a malaria zone also can't give blood for half a year.

People are also concerned that they could get an infection from donating blood. Everything used to donate blood is disposable, and the risk of getting an infection from donating is zero, according to experts.

Of the 112.5 million blood donations collected globally, approximately half of these are collected in high-income countries, home to 19 percent of the world's population, the WHO states.

Globally 30 percent of blood donations are given by women, although this ranges widely. In 18 of the 118 reporting countries, less than 10 percent of donations are given by female donors. The age profile of blood donors shows that, proportionally, more young people donate blood in low- and middle-income countries than in high-income countries.

In low-income countries, up to 65 percent of blood transfusions are given to children under 5 years of age; while in high-income countries, the most frequently transfused patient group is over 65 years of age, accounting for up to 76 percent of all transfusions, according to WHO figures.

A blood donation rate is 32.1 donations per 1,000 people is seen in high-income countries, 14.9 donations in upper-middle-income countries, 7.8 donations in lower-middle-income countries and 4.6 donations in low-income countries, the WHO states.

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