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[Editorial] Blood Donations and Type A Flu

Posted November. 04, 2009 08:47,   


The national stockpile of blood reserves is running short as the number of donors has plummeted due to fears over the H1N1 influenza virus. The Korea Red Cross yesterday said the number of donors dropped 12 percent last month, when the virus outbreak came out in full force, from the average between January and September. In September, seven days’ worth of blood reserves was stocked, but the Red Cross has just two days’ worth remaining. Accordingly, hospitals are suffering from a shortage of blood.

The drop in blood donations is mainly due to canceled mass donations by the military and schools, which account for 35 percent of all donations. Since school started in August, 206 rounds of mass donations equivalent to 25,520 individual donations have been either canceled or postponed mainly due to fears over flu infection and reluctance to go crowded places. These are unfounded and excessive responses, however. Avoiding crowded places to prevent infection is understandable, but thorough adherence to hygiene guidelines can do the same.

When the new virus first emerged, many Koreans avoided eating pork because the virus was initially called swine flu. They thought pork had something to do with swine flu. The fear over pork continued until the government began calling it type A or new influenza. Though the U.S. and Europe still use the term “swine flu,” nobody in those regions avoids eating pork. Koreans are the only people reluctant to consume chickens when bird flu spreads.

Blood donation is a noble deed that helps preserve life. At this moment, many patients are in desperate need of blood transfusions. Medical experts warn that the damage done by blood shortages will be bigger than that done by type A flu. Suspending blood donations due to the H1N1 virus is nothing less than surrendering to the disease. The government is also not free from criticism because of its failure to devise emergency measures, though the shortage of blood was fully expected.

The H1N1 flu alert yesterday was raised to its highest level of “serious” for all-out efforts to fight the virus. Vaccination schedules have been moved up and anti-viral injections have been allowed, and these measures are more effective than dispensing Tamiflu. As temperatures drop, heightened preparation for type A flu is necessary. Excessive fear will do harm more than good, however. Scientific approaches and consideration for society as a whole are needed to wisely respond to the disease and minimize its negative impact on other areas.