New donation rules to protect the blood supply from the Zika virus are contributing to a blood donation shortage in Canada.
Canadian Blood Services says 200,000 blood donations are needed by July to fill the need over the warmer months, with 18,000 blood donations needed in Metro Vancouver alone.
Every summer, the blood supply takes a dip with people being away on holidays or busy with other activities.
But this year, the situation has been made even worse by new donation rules that are meant to protect the blood supply from the Zika virus.
As of Feb.5 this year, anyone who has travelled outside of Canada, the continental United States and Europe will be temporarily ineligible to give blood for three weeks (21 days). Canadian Blood Services says this period ensures enough time has passed for the Zika virus to be eliminated from a person’s bloodstream, and begins the day a person returns to Canada.
Canadian Blood Services told Global News blood donations have already dropped by about 1.1 per cent as the result of the new eligibility criteria.
The 21-day waiting period also applies to cord blood and stem cell donors who have travelled to affected areas.
READ MORE: 5 things Canadians need to know about Zika virus
As of April 25 , there were 55 travel-related cases of the virus and one locally acquired case through sexual transmission in Canada, according to the federal government.
Last week, health officials in B.C. confirmed two pregnant women were among seven individuals in B.C. who tested positive for Zika virus.
Canadian Blood Services says the risk of a Canadian donor transmitting the Zika virus to a blood recipient is very low.
At the time, the agency anticipated the ineligibility period would reduce the number of donors available to donate in the coming months.
“We are therefore urging Canadians to donate before they travel to help make up for the anticipated shortfall,” Canadian Blood Services notes on its website. “We also urge new and current donors who have not recently travelled outside of Canada, the continental United States and Europe, to please book an appointment.”
On top of the Zika virus, the agency is also dealing with temporary deferrals associated with travel plans, seasonal health conditions like the flu and missed appointments.
Canadian Blood Services says it has a greater need for donors with Type O blood, but all donors are encouraged to get involved.
If you live in Metro Vancouver, you can donate blood at one of the following permanent clinic locations:
· Oak Street Blood Donor Clinic, 4750 Oak Street: open Monday to Friday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Saturdays from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
· Downtown Blood Donor Clinic, #200-888 Dunsmuir Street: open Monday to Wednesday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.
· Surrey Blood Donor Clinic, 15285 101 Avenue: open Wednesdays and Thursdays from 1 to 7 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
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