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COVID-19 survivors can help those fighting disease

The American Red Cross is urging people who’ve recovered from COVID-19 to donate their blood plasma, which can be used to make antibody-rich convalescent plasma for people fighting the disease.

The Red Cross is planning a string of plasma and blood donation events this month in Medford, Ashland, Central Point and Eagle Point.

With COVID-19 cases surging across much of the United States, the need for convalescent plasma is spiking. The potentially life-saving plasma is being distributed faster than donations are coming in, Red Cross officials said.

“In the last month, demand has more than doubled,” said April Phillips, communications director for the Red Cross.

People’s immune systems create virus-killing antibodies against the COVID-19 virus when they become infected. Once they’ve fought off the virus and no longer have symptoms, they can donate their blood plasma, which contains lingering antibodies.

“Some people have donated five times since they’ve recovered. Convalescent plasma is crucial for people currently battling COVID-19,” Phillips said.

Donating plasma is similar to donating blood. Whole blood is drawn from a donor and the plasma is separated from red blood cells. The red blood cells are returned to the donor’s body along with sterile saline solution to help the body replace plasma removed from the whole blood.

With each plasma donation, a COVID-19 survivor can help up to three people recover from the virus, Red Cross officials said.

People who’ve either tested positive for the COVID-19 virus or COVID-19 antibodies are eligible to donate plasma. The Red Cross recently updated its standards to allow people with positive antibody test results to donate convalescent plasma — not just people with a past positive COVID-19 virus test result, Phillips said.

While some people have no symptoms from the virus, people need to have experienced symptoms in order for their bodies to generate enough antibodies to be useful in making convalescent plasma.

“We’ve found that in individuals with a positive antibody test but no symptoms, their antibody counts may be too low for convalescent plasma to be effective,” Phillips said.

COVID-19 symptoms can include coughing, shortness of breath, fever, sore throat, congestion or a runny nose, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, nausea or vomiting, diarrhea and a new loss of taste or smell. The virus affects people differently and not everyone has the same symptoms.

While not everyone can donate convalescent plasma, the Red Cross always need donations of blood to help people facing diseases, accidents and surgery.

As an added bonus to encourage donation, the Red Cross is testing incoming blood donations for COVID-19 antibodies. Donors can opt to get a notification about their antibody test result.

A positive antibody test provides information to a donor that he or she may have been exposed to the virus in the past, Red Cross officials said.

The Red Cross is not providing COVID-19 virus tests or asking for blood or plasma donations from people who are currently sick. People with symptoms should wait until they are fully recovered before donating.

Donation collection sites are following safety protocols, including mask wearing for staff and donors, temperature checks and social distancing.

People must make appointments to donate plasma or blood.

Appointments can be made by downloading the free Blood Donor App, visiting redcrossblood.org, calling 1-800-733-2767, or enabling the Blood Donor Skill on any Alexa Echo device.

From Aug. 1 through Sept. 3, donors of blood and plasma will receive a $5 Amazon gift card, courtesy of Amazon.

Those who donate by Aug. 31 will also be entered for a chance to win a trip for four to Cedar Point or Knott’s Berry Farm in 2021.

Donation events in Jackson County are planned for the following times:

  • Wednesday, Aug. 5 from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Ashland Family YMCA, 540 YMCA Way
  • Wednesday, Aug. 5, 1-6 p.m. Ashpole Community Center, 17 Buchanan Ave., Eagle Point
  • Thursday, Aug. 6, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., South Medford Walmart, 1360 Center Drive
  • Friday, Aug. 7, 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., Medford Blood Donation Center, 1174 Progress Drive, Suite 102
  • Monday, Aug. 10, 1-6:30 p.m., Medford Blood Donation Center, 1174 Progress Drive, Suite 102
  • Tuesday, Aug. 11, noon to 5 p.m., New Life Church of Nazarene, 1974 East McAndrews Road, Medford
  • Tuesday, Aug. 11, 1-6:30 p.m., Medford Blood Donation Center, 1174 Progress Drive, Suite 102
  • Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2-7 p.m., The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2305 Taylor Road, Central Point
  • Thursday, Aug. 13, from noon to 6 p.m. at First Baptist Church of Ashland, 2004 Siskiyou Blvd.
  • Friday, Aug. 14, 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., Medford Blood Donation Center, 1174 Progress Drive, Suite 102

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Vickie Aldous at 541-776-4486 or valdous@rosebudmedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @VickieAldous.

The American Red Cross wants people who have survived COVID-19 to donate their antibody-rich blood plasma to help those still battling the disease. Associated Press file photo