Did you travel somewhere warm this winter to escape the frigid Minnesota weather? Or are you planning a spring break trip to a tropical destination? If so, there’s good news. Certain travel will no longer affect your eligibility to donate platelets.
Platelet donors no longer have to wait one year to donate after traveling to countries where malaria is prevalent, according to the Food & Drug Administration (FDA), The five countries where malaria is prevalent that residents of Olmsted County, Minnesota, traveled the most to in 2018 were Mexico, followed by India, the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Guatamala.
This new guideline, which took effect on Feb. 18, is for platelet donation only. Since the guideline change applies to malaria, some foreign travel still may make platelet donors ineligible due to other diseases. To find out if your destination is on the list, you should call the Mayo Clinic Blood Donor Center in Rochester at 507-284-4475.
Given the FDA’s new guideline, the Mayo Clinic Blood Donor Program has updated its eligibility rules for platelet donors who travel to countries where malaria is prevalent. It is now acceptable for people to donate platelets as soon as they return from one of these countries, provided they are symptom-free. Whole blood or double red cells donors still are required to wait one year after travel.
Why are these changes being made?
There is a newer technology available in the blood bank industry that disables disease-causing agents such as the malaria parasite, in platelet products. This FDA-approved technology is highly effective at improving the safety of platelet products.
The Mayo Clinic Blood Donor Program is currently using one of these pathogen-reduction technologies called Intercept Blood System. It works by adding a chemical to the platelet products that reacts [the chemical reacts] to ultraviolet A light. After exposing the platelet products to UV A light, most viruses, bacteria and parasites become inactive without affecting the platelets.
The Mayo Clinic Blood Donor Program recently became the first organization to receive approval from the FDA to allow donors who travel to countries where malaria is prevalent to donate platelets sooner.
“We continually review scientific data and medical literature on this topic — always with the best interests of our donors and recipients at the top of our list,” says Justin Kreuter, M.D., medical director of Mayo Clinic’s Blood Donor Program. “There is a constant need for blood products, especially for platelets, which expire after only five days. We are hopeful that with less travel restrictions for platelet donors, we will be able to maintain and grow our platelet donor community.”