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Ask the Doc

April 2014 • Published in The Daily Press, Ashland WI

Q:  I went out of the country with my family during Spring Break. How do I know if I am eligible to donate blood again?


A: Thank you for your past life-saving blood donations in our community, we are very grateful for the generous gifts you’ve given. 

There are some conditions and activities that may prevent a potential donor from being eligible to donate. One reason is travel to areas where malaria is endemic (regularly found in a certain area). Though most travelers will not get malaria, there is a one year deferral from the date of return from an area with malaria.

Like all blood collection agencies in the U.S., Memorial Blood Centers follows Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requirements for blood donors. This is to ensure the safety of the blood supply as well as the safety of the donors who give. When it comes to travel restrictions, we also follow guidelines and recommendations issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC regularly issues alerts and updates on incidences of such diseases as malaria, yellow fever, cholera, HIV, H1N1, and dozens of other conditions found in over 200 different countries around the world.  As you can imagine, the status of outbreaks and risk of exposure to any number of these diseases is continually changing.

Your eligibility for future blood donations can be affected by the specific region or regions of a country through which you travel. In Panama, for example, there is not a risk of malaria in Panama City,  but there may be a risk of exposure if you traveled outside of the Canal Zone.  In addition, the CDC may issue new information tomorrow that could alter what we know today.

So in the end, the best advice is to call us in advance of your donation. Let us help you determine your eligibility for future donations based on your exact travel destinations.  To verify eligibility or for detailed information about safety requirements governing blood donations, please talk with one of our Memorial Blood Centers experts at 1-888-GIVE-BLD (888-448-3253).

For your next donation, we suggest you know and document your travel information within the past 3 years, including where (cities and countries) you went and when you returned from each country.  This will make it easier for you to complete your health history and ensure a consistent answer to travel questions.

Jed Gorlin, M.D. is Medical Director and Vice President, Medical and Quality Affairs for Memorial Blood Centers.  Elizabeth Perry, M.D. is Associate Medical Director for Memorial Blood Centers.                                                            

Send us your questions at askthedoc@MBC.org. Call us today 1-888-GIVE-BLD (888-448-3253) to schedule an appointment, or to find out more about Memorial Blood Centers and how we partner with the Ashland community to save lives. You also can visit us online at www.MBC.org.

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