The American Red Cross is continuing to investigate how mysterious white particles got into bags of blood destined for hospitals in Georgia and Tennessee, including at least one unit collected locally.
Ray Rogers, a team supervisor at the Daytona Beach office of the Red Cross Southern Region Blood Services, said Monday he spotted “white specks” in blood he collected Saturday during a blood drive in Brevard County.
Although the Red Cross doesn’t supply hospitals in Volusia and Flagler counties or other parts of Florida, it does solicit donations from area residents that are shipped elsewhere. The white particles which Red Cross officials say are not infectious and may have come from the bags prompted a quarantine Friday of about 4,000 units at more than 140 Georgia hospitals supplied by the Red Cross.
When similarly tainted blood later turned up in the Tennesee Valley region, the Red Cross quarantined 70 percent of its blood supplies in the Nashville area.
All the affected blood was collected in the same type of collection bags, which prompted Red Cross officials to switch to another brand of bag Monday. The national Centers for Disease Control, meanwhile, is continuing to study the white particles.
So far, 110 units of Southern Region blood including the unit Rogers discovered Saturday have the white particles, according to Jason Ferrell, Red Cross district manager for blood services.
The particles also were discovered in 10 bags of blood in Tennessee.
“We were told to look for it,” said Rogers, as he collected blood Monday from Lou Lomoriello of Ormond Beach. A regular Red Cross donor, Lomoriello, 64, said he hadn’t heard about the problem causing severe blood shortages elsewhere.
Neither had Randy White, a 24-year-old Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University student who also rolled up his sleeve Monday to make a Red Cross blood donation.
Giving blood “makes me feel good,” said White, but he wouldn’t like if it ended up contaminated and quarantined. “I want them to use it,” he said.
The two donors said they were not aware that the Red Cross does not supply any local hospitals.
Since 1999, the Central Florida Blood Bank has been the sole local supplier, although it continues to compete with the Red Cross for local donors.
“It’s kind of like a Pepsi-Coke thing,” said Susan Meeske Williams, a spokeswoman for Central Florida Blood Bank. She said the Red Cross problem has had no effect on her agency, which serves hospitals in 17 counties, including Volusia and Flagler. There’s currently a three-day supply of blood on the shelf, she said, although “we’d like a five-day supply” and donors are always needed.
It’s possible, said Ferrell, that the affected hospitals in Georgia and Tennessee may eventually be able to use the quarantined Red Cross blood, once its safety is confirmed. But in the meantime, he’s also hoping more local donors will come forward.