With the country under lockdown, a blood crisis loomsNumerous blood drives had already been cancelled due to Covid-19 fears, but the lockdown has meant that all blood donations have stopped.
Fears of contracting Covid-19 had led to the cancellation of a number of blood drives so the supply was already low, said Dr Manita Rajkarnikar, director of the Central Blood Transfusion Service at the Red Cross. Around nine blood drives were cancelled in the Capital in the past two weeks and now the lockdown has put an end to all other drives for the time being, she said.
According to Rajkarnikar, the Red Cross organises 15 to 20 blood drives in a month in each district in the country with the support of schools, colleges, and civic organisations. The humanitarian organisation normally collects around 5,000 to 10,000 pints of blood a month in the Capital, which patients have access to when they require transfusions.
The Red Cross currently has no blood in stock, according to Rajkarnikar. They had collected 23 pints on Tuesday, which have all been supplied to hospitals, she said.
According to Rajkarnikar, the Red Cross supplied 125,000 pints of blood last year, which amounts to around 340 pints of blood a day.
The Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital blood centre has 100-120 pints that have already been cross-matching for transfusion, according to Manoj Singh Kushwaha, a lab technician at the blood centre.
“We fully depend on blood drives organised by different civil organisations, including the Red Cross Society and there haven’t been any events, we don’t have any donor blood in stock,” he said.
According to Kushwaha, the hospital needs 30 to 40 pints of blood per day but since the number of patients has dropped, they don’t require much emergency blood. If they do, they will ask one of the other hospitals, said Kushwaha.
The BP Koirala Institute of Health Sciences in Dharan is also looking at a shortage of blood, with just around 150-200 pints in stock, said Subash Chandra Singh, in charge of the Red Cross’ Sunsari Blood Bank, which provides the blood for the BP Koirala Institute. Singh attributed the shortage to the cancellation of three blood drives last week.
According to Jitendra Sharma, in charge of the BPKIHS blood bank, around 25-30 blood pints are consumed per day, but due to the lockdown, they don’t have many patients but no donors either.
Although the country is under lockdown due to the global coronavirus outbreak, Covid-19 victims do not require blood transfusions, but other patients might, said Kushwaha.
“Transfusions are still necessary for surgeries, cancer treatments or complications in childbirth,” he said. “My biggest fear is that we might not be able to help victims of severe accidents who need immediate blood transfusions.”
Although there are fewer people visiting the hospital due to the lockdown, Kushwasa said that patients who are scheduled for operations are already finding it difficult to arrange for blood for cross-matching.
“Patients are asked to arrange for blood on their own. Many patients have already started complaining about the unavailability of blood for cross-matching even at the Red Cross blood transfusion service,” said Kushwaha.
In order to avert a possible crisis, the Red Cross Society Bhaktapur is actively reaching out to donors in order to collect blood.
“If donors want to donate blood, we will provide them with transportation facilities to come to our blood bank,” said Sarita Bhattarai, an official at Bhaktapur Red Cross Society blood bank.
All donors are screened for fever before obtaining blood and the blood bank will also consist of a few health care workers actively using hand soap and sanitisers, said Rajkarnikar.
Frequently asked questions about the coronavirus outbreak
UPDATED as of March 31, 2020
What is Covid-19?
Covid-19, short for coronavirus disease, is an illness caused by the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, short for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2. Common symptoms of the disease include fever, dry cough, fatigue, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In severe cases, the infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death.
How contagious is Covid-19?
Covid-19 can spread easily from person to person, especially in enclosed spaces. The virus can travel through the air in respiratory droplets produced when a sick person breathes, talks, coughs or sneezes. As the virus can also survive on plastic and steel surfaces for up to 72 hours and on cardboard for up to 24 hours, any contact with such surfaces can also spread the virus. Symptoms take between two to 14 days to appear, during which time the carrier is believed to be contagious.
Where did the virus come from?
The virus was first identified in Wuhan, China in late December. The coronavirus is a large family of viruses that is responsible for everything from the common cold to Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). After an initial outbreak in Wuhan that spread across Hubei province, eventually infecting over 80,000 and killing more than 3,000, new infection rates in mainland China have dropped. However, the disease has since spread across the world at an alarming rate.
What is the current status of Covid-19?
The World Health Organisation has called the ongoing outbreak a “pandemic” and urged countries across the world to take precautionary measures. As of Wednesday, Covid-19 had spread to 199 countries and infected more than 8,07,705 people with 39,456 deaths. In South Asia, Pakistan has reported the highest number of infections at 1,865 with 25 deaths. While India has reported 1,251 confirmed cases with 32 deaths. Nepal has so far reported five cases, in which one patient recovered.
How dangerous is the disease?
The mortality rate for Covid-19 is estimated to be 3.6 percent, but new studies have put the rate slightly higher at 5.7 percent. Although Covid-19 is not too dangerous to young healthy people, older individuals and those with immune-compromised systems are at greater risk of death. People with chronic medical conditions like heart disease, diabetes and lung disease, or those who’ve recently undergone serious medical procedures, are also at risk.
How do I keep myself safe?
The WHO advises that the most important thing you can do is wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizers with at least 60 percent alcohol content. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unclean hands. Clean and disinfect frequently used surfaces like your computers and phones. Avoid large crowds of people. Seek medical attention if symptoms persist for longer than a few days.
Is it time to panic?
No. The government has imposed a lockdown to limit the spread of the virus. There is no need to begin stockpiling food, cooking gas or hand sanitizers. However, it is always prudent to take sensible precautions like the ones identified above.