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Red Cross needs convalescent plasma from recovered COVID-19 patients

(WDBJ)
Published: May. 1, 2020 at 5:03 PM EDT
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Around the world, COVID-19 has taken the lives of hundreds of thousands of people in just a matter of months. As of right now, there's no cure and no vaccine, but there is a recent FDA-approved treatment plan that could help the millions more still infected with this virus.

"Patients who have recovered from COVID-19, there's a belief that they may have antibodies in their blood that could provide some therapeutic value to patients who are recently ill battling the virus," Jonathan McNamara, the American Red Cross regional communications director, said.

Antibodies are memory card-like proteins that save the virus information. If the disease comes back, the antibodies will know what the rest of the body needs to do.

"This is kind of the fight and the challenge of our times," McNamara said. "What we're saying at the Red Cross is if somebody's plasma donation can help one patient, then it was worth this effort."

During a video conference with WDBJ7, he said the Red Cross has been working for weeks to get this new collection program up and running.

"Like literally we worked around the clock to facilitate," he said. "You have to develop a whole platform, website and how people can submit, so it's been crazy, but the response has been tremendous."

The Red Cross has seen tens of thousands of donation applications already. About 10 percent of those applications are accepted. The collection of convalescent plasma is a similar process to regular blood donation and the Red Cross needs all the donations it can get.

"People have a passion and a desire to help and we're trying to facilitate that once again. Because if there's a patient in need in a hospital here in Virginia, we want to be able to deliver that therapy so they can get that treatment as quickly as possible," McNamara said.

Originally, the Red Cross could only take convalescent plasma from people who had actually been tested and found positive for the virus.

"We are seeing significant demand from hospitals across the Commonwealth to help use this therapy for these patients," McNamara said.

However, because of the lack of testing, this requirement excluded thousands of people who possibly had the virus and could still donate. That's why the Red Cross is now working with Creative Testing Solutions to increase the donation pool.

"We are working with a testing partner that's going to be able to screen for antibodies so that somebody who does apply through the program is a match for this," McNamara said.

Now, even people who never got tested for COVID-19, but believe they had it, are encouraged to apply online. If your application is accepted, you'll be eligible for a blood test that screens for COVID-19 antibodies.

"We're not testing for the general public at this time," McNamara warned. "We are only testing for people who apply to that website who believe they may be a match."

The demand for this kind of plasma is high, but one donation could help up to three people.

"If someone believes they are a match, we need you," McNamara said.

Some of the requirements for convalescent plasma are:

• Be fully recovered from COVID-19 for at least two weeks

• Have no symptoms for at least 28 days and a positive COVID-19 test.

• Or have no symptoms for at least 14 days prior to donation and a negative lab test for active COVID-19 disease.

You can read the full list of donation requirements and fill out an application on the

website.

Copyright 2020 WDBJ7. All rights reserved.

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