Pandemic Flu Could Lead to Shortages in Blood Supply

Simulations based on German system estimate blood deficit that could have fatal outcomes

THURSDAY, Dec. 10 (HealthDay News) -- Preparation for an influenza pandemic should include evaluating how the event could affect a nation's blood supply, since shortages could have potentially fatal outcomes, according to research published online Dec. 9 in Transfusion.

Christel Kamp, Ph.D., of the Paul-Ehrlich-Institut in Langen, Germany, and colleagues discuss how blood supplies are normally managed in Germany and use computer simulations to estimate how blood availability might be altered during a pandemic.

By the researcher's calculations, a deficit of 220,000 transfusion units could develop in five or six weeks, as units that are released decline by 40 to 50 percent during this period. Based on assumptions of how many units are for urgent needs that can't be postponed, up to 96,000 units would have to be denied, which could lead to deaths. Also, illness among blood-collecting staff and the need to bring donors into smaller collecting sessions to limit exposure could also affect blood availability.

"Our study underscores that an essential prerequisite for epidemic preparedness will be to elaborate and implement a prioritization scheme for the release and use of blood products, which should be available and applicable well before blood supplies are critically low and decisions with severe consequences will have to be made. A guideline on how to prioritize and postpone transfusions ready in the beginning of a pandemic can save critical resources for the pandemic peak," the authors write.

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