Blood donations safe from COVID-19, NIH says

The National Institutes of Health on Tuesday said COVID-19 does not pose a threat to blood donations in the U.S.

"SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, does not appear to pose a threat to the safety of the nation’s blood supply," the institute wrote in a press release.

In accordance to current guidelines used by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the NIH says people are not required to test blood samples for COVID-19. However, blood donors should be screened for physical symptoms of COVID-19 as well as any other possible infections within 14 days of the blood donation. 

"This finding is good news for thousands of patients who may need a blood transfusion because of surgery or a disease that causes anemia, such as a rare blood-related condition or leukemia," said Simone Glynn, M.D., M.P.H., chief of the Blood Epidemiology and Clinical Therapeutics Branch at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI).

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The NIH’s statement comes after a study led by the NHLBI who analyzed 17,995 pools of donated blood representing 257,809 blood donations. These samples were collected between March and September 2020 from six U.S. metropolitan regions, according to the institute.

Researchers were able to conclude that out of the nearly 300,000 donation samples they analyzed, the likelihood of a blood donation recipient receiving a sample tainted with COVID-19 was approximately .001%.

Scientists explained that out of the thousands of samples tested, only three came back positive for COVID-19, albeit containing extremely low traces of the virus. 

The NIH assures Americans that it is much more common for COVID-19 to transmit through the air than through blood. 

"Other studies have shown that in rare cases where a blood sample tested positive, transmission by blood transfusion has not occurred," said Sonia Bakkour, Ph.D., a scientist at the Vitalant Research Institute and part of the research team that analyzed the blood samples. "Therefore, it appears safe to receive blood as a transfusion recipient and to keep donating blood, without fear of transmitting COVID-19 as long as current screenings are used."