Person donating blood

Red Cross Testing Donated Blood for COVID-19 Antibodies

Wondering if you’ve been exposed to COVID-19? Since people can have the virus but show no symptoms, it’s understandable to be curious.

Did you know that donating blood could give you an answer and help you give back all at once? The American Red Cross started testing all donated blood, platelet and plasma for COVID-19 antibodies in June. Donors are notified if COVID-19 antibodies are present within seven to 10 days through the Red Cross Blood Donor App or donor portal at RedCrossBlood.org.

“This testing ability, offered free of charge to all blood donors, cannot be used to diagnose an illness,” explained Jodie Brzezinski, regional philanthropy officer, American Red Cross of Michigan. “But it will empower individuals with better insight into their own health history and see if they were exposed to the virus, even if they experienced no symptoms.”

A positive antibody test result doesn’t confirm infection or immunity. It is currently unknown whether the presence of COVID-19 antibodies provides immunity from future infection, although this has been shown to be the case in similar viruses for a period of time. People with positive antibodies will be encouraged to consider donating convalescent plasma, which could be used to help people actively battling COVID-19.

Blood donation has fluctuated throughout the pandemic, with blood levels reaching a critically low point in March as people locked down. Safety for donors is always a priority, Brzezinski said, and extra precautionary measures are being taken at this time. People who are feeling well can schedule an appointment to donate by using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting RedCrossBlood.org or calling 1-800-RED CROSS. Donors are required to wear a face mask or covering and are encouraged to bring their own.

People who suspect they might currently have COVID-19 and are experiencing symptoms should not give blood and are encouraged to seek a diagnostic test elsewhere.

Have you donated blood recently? What was your experience like? Share with us in the comments.

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Photo credit: Kamonchai Mattakulphon

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