Urgent call out for plasma donors
THE South African Blood Transfusion Services (SANBS) is in urgent need of plasma donors to stock up on its rabies vaccines. The country has a critical shortage of rabies immunoglobulin ( RIG), the key ingredient of the rabies vaccine.
SA marked World Rabies Day on September 28, but the SANBS said it had collected just over half of the amount of plasma required in 2016, and was anticipating a shortfall again this year.
RIG is produced from plasma collected from hyperimmune donors – those who have been vaccinated against rabies.
Most people bitten by dogs must receive tetanus shots to treat the bacteria in the saliva, but rabies is a viral infection which can be fatal if left untreated.
Pam Larkin, head of Strategic Resources at the National Bioproducts Institute ( NBI), said South Africa needed about 295 plasma donors who donated at least 12 times a year to meet demand, but there were only 280 to 320 donors who donated about seven times a year.
“We collected only 1 450 litres of plasma last year, significantly less than the 2 300 litres required,” said Larkin.
The s hortage of hyperimmune donors has forced the NBI to import hyperimmune plasma at great cost from Europe, but it has now stopped the import because this is too expensive.
The National Institute for Communicable Diseases has estimated there are on average, about 10 confirmed cases of rabies in South Africa a year.
The most recent outbreaks were last month in Ballito, KwaZulu-Natal, and in Gauteng last year .
While rabies is preventable, it is a terminal disease. There is no specific treatment for it and once symptoms appear, it’s 100% fatal.
SPCA spokesperson Belinda Abrahams said the Western Cape was not on the red zone list for rabies and outbreaks mostly occurred in KZN, the Eastern Cape and Limpopo.
Signs to look out for in dogs that may be infected include aggression, sensitivity to light and sound, paralysis and salivating.
“If you are bitten by a dog that shows these symptoms, wash the wound immediately with soap and water and go to a doctor,” warned Abrahams.
People who have been bitten by a dog with rabies will display the same symptoms as the dog.
To find out more about donating plasma visit sanbs. org.za or call 0800 11 90 31.