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herald editorial - 1/8/02

January 09, 2002

An unanticipated benefit for those donating blood



After the attacks of Sept. 11, thousands of Americans determined to help out rushed to donate blood to the Red Cross. The agency soon had as much as it could safely store, but urged folks to remember that there would be a need in the future. Now comes a new report that should provide a new incentive to anyone thinking about becoming a donor.

Red Cross officials in Pittsburgh said this week that a number of first-time donors had their blood rejected because it tested positive for a number of infectious illnesses - seriuos diseases people didn't know they had until their blood was screened.

To stop the spread of infectious disease, each pint of donated blood undergoes a dozen tests, to check it for syphilis, HIV and hepatitis B and C, among other things

According to officials at Pittsburgh's Center for Liver Diseases, early detection of hepatitis C is particularly important because there are no symptoms until it's well-advanced. By then, some patients' liver damage may turn into cirrhosis or cancer, they said.

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And so in exchange for their donations, donors get free lab testing that could significantly improve their health or extend their lives. And those who donate frequently get this benefit on an ongoing basis.

Following Sept. 11, Red Cross officials said there's a need for regular donors because the technology needed to freeze blood for long periods of time isn't available yet. And while there may not be a national emergency every month, there are cases which require blood transfusions every day.

Helping in this way also has a positive effect on one's metal-health, according to practitioners The Herald-Mail consulted about how to deal with the anxiety caused by the terrorist attacks. Some situations are beyond citizens' control, but doing something positive is one way to get back that control.

Apparently, it's also one way to stay physically healthy as well. If you're interested in more information, check out redcross.org on the Web, or call 1-800-448-3543.

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