Impact of the 2019 novel coronavirus on blood donation

Feb. 3, 2020

As surveillance for the novel coronavirus (called 2019-nCoV) in China improves and diagnostics become more available, the number of infections is increasing since recognition of the first cases in late December and early January. The case counts and clinical and epidemiological information are extremely labile, so readers are advised to pay close attention to CDC and other public health resources and to stay abreast of prevention and control recommendations. Updates will be available on the CDC website. Coronaviruses are a large family, generally causing respiratory infections that range from mild to severe. The 2019-nCoV infection is being associated with unexplained pneumonia.

The incubation period appears to be in the range of 2-14 days, but precise data remain limited. Early infections were linked to a single live animal/seafood market in Wuhan, China, raising concerns about a zoonosis, as was the case with Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) coronavirus.

“Superspreaders,” who infect multiple contacts, like those described during the 2003-04 SARS outbreak, have not yet been identified. The CDC continues screening for respiratory symptoms among travelers from Wuhan at several U.S. airports where the debarkations of an estimated 60-65,000 annual direct and indirect travelers to the U.S. from that area are concentrated.

A travel alert from the CDC remains in place and recommends travelers practice enhanced precautions to prevent exposure and secondary spread from individuals at risk who develop any signs or symptoms of respiratory infection.

Update from AABB’s Transfusion Transmitted Diseases Committee: No data on the presence of viral nucleic acid or infectious virus in blood have been reported for this coronavirus strain. AABB’s Transfusion Transmitted Diseases Committee is monitoring developments continuously and members have been in contact with both FDA and CDC to assess any need for interventions to protect the safety of the blood supply as our information expands, given the potential similarities of this virus to SARS.

A rapid risk assessment from the European Centers for Disease Control recommends a brief travel deferral for blood donors returning from Wuhan, China, as has been done previously in the settings of SARS and MERS-CoV.

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