What Happens to Donated Blood?

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Pursuing their chief work -gathering, processing and distributing blood -- the blood donor centres of the Canadian Red Cross Society follow standard operating procedures like those in place at the Ottawa centre. Here, recruitment staff and volunteers work to recruit donors to meet needs at a time when the number of donors is falling. When they register, donors must show proof of identity. Each receives a permanent identification number that is linked to the numbers assigned to the units of blood each donates and to the date the unit was collected and the centre that collected it. Donors must answer questions about health and high-risk activity, and the blood of those who report high-risk activity is not accepted. Units are screened by automated instruments for syphilis, hepatitis B and C, HIV types 1 and 2, and human T-cell leukemia virus. Units with a negative test result are broken down into components for use in hospitals. A reactive test result prompts quarantining of the unit and a second screening test. If this test result is also reactive, a sample of the unit is sent to the National Testing Laboratory for confirmatory testing, and the unit is discarded. Once it has the results of the confirmatory test, the centre contacts the donor. Blood is now considered a drug. Red Cross practices in Canada and around the world have been changing since 1989 to reflect this.

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