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Red Cross Begs For Blood Donations After Quarantine

Feb 4, 2003 | Maryville Daily Times

Red Cross officials begged for blood donations and waited for emergency shipments Monday after quarantining 70 percent of its blood supply for testing of an unknown contaminant.

Blount County blood supplies, however, are not affected, said Jeanine McKamey, a spokesperson for Medic Regional Blood Center.

``We've thoroughly checked our inventory'' and found no contaminants, she said.

Medic supplies blood to Blount Memorial Hospital and 25 other hospitals.

Kris Loggins, blood bank section chief at Blount Memorial, said, ``I haven't heard anything about a problem of any kind locally. We always get immediate communications whenever there is a situation with potential to affect us from a low blood supply to a disaster pending that might impact the blood supply and we have received nothing at this point.''

McKamey said that while the blood supply is not contaminated locally, it does fall short of what is needed.

``We only have about 600 units on hand now. We should have 1,500,'' she said.

Hospitals have been using more blood in recent months, and several blood drives were canceled in January due to snow, she said.

Medic plans a blood drive at Blount Memorial from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Feb. 21.

Elsewhere in the state, the quarantine has left the region dangerously low on red blood cells and plasma, Red Cross officials said.

The Tennessee Valley region of the Red Cross examined its blood after reports from the Southern Region, based in Atlanta, of white particles found in donated blood.

The Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were testing the particles, which were not considered dangerous or infectious.

Some Southern hospitals canceled surgeries, and the Red Cross shipped blood from other regions to increase the supply.

Blood in bags manufactured by Baxter International Inc. had been found to be contaminated. A spokeswoman for Baxter said the particles were not related to the manufacturing of the bags.

In a statement Monday, the company said its own tests found ``the particulate matter is blood-derived in nature, likely a very small fibrin clot containing white blood cells and platelets. These are natural components of blood, which can occur to varying degrees in stored blood under normal conditions.''

But Mary Malarkey, director of case management for the FDA's Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, said it was too early to characterize the particles. ``We have not ruled anything out and continue to investigate,'' Malarkey said.

The Tennessee Valley Blood Services Region serves 84 counties in Tennessee and counties in southern Illinois, southwest Kentucky and two counties in eastern Missouri.

The 70 hospitals in Tennessee that receive TVR blood have been notified. All have expressed ``general concern'' about going ahead with scheduled surgeries, Red Cross spokeswoman Patricia M. Smith said.

Anne Neff, director of transfusion services at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, said the hospital didn't have many of the Baxter blood bags, so its supply was not affected Sunday.

``Our major concern is that the Red Cross is down 50 percent to 70 percent,'' she said. ``If they don't have anything to supply us with tomorrow or the next day, we could be in bad shape.''

The Red Cross was notified Friday about potential problems and blood collected then began to show signs of the white material, Smith said. About 10 of the 1,000 units of blood collected in the Baxter bags had signs of the contaminant, but as a precaution all have been quarantined, she said.

Copyright 2002 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, or redistributed.

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