Ur­gent call out for plasma donors

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - NOR­MAN CLOETE

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.

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