The U.S. Blood Supply
The US blood supply is highly regulated at several levels. Safety of the blood supply is especially important because of the public focus that has been placed on the blood supply following the discovery of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and its introduction into the blood supply in the early 1980s. As a consequence of this disease, the life-saving benefits of blood transfusions are now forever balanced against the risks of acquiring an incurable and almost inevitably fatal disease. More recently, other major diseases that can be transmitted via a contaminated blood supply have received increasing attention, including diseases caused by the hepatitis B and C viruses (HBV and HCV).
More than 4 million Americans annually receive life-saving blood products, which are derived from the 14 million units of whole blood donated by 8 million donors nationwide. Today, due to the intense public scrutiny placed on the blood supply following the HIV crisis, the blood supply in the United States, and indeed in most developed countries, is safer than in any time in recent history. In the United States, several layers of protection are in place to ensure the utmost safety of the blood supply to those who receive it.
These 5 levels of safety, which are implemented by the blood collection groups licensed to operate in the United States, are:
- Donor screening;
- Donor deferral registries to eliminate unsuitable donors from future blood donation;
- Testing the donated blood;
- Quarantining donated blood until its safety is established by all required tests and control procedures;
- Monitoring and investigating problems occurring in blood donation/transfusion to correct deficiencies.
This section provides current information on the topics relevant to the safety and adequacy of the blood supply. Specific resources on the pathogens carried in blood are to be found in the Bloodborne Pathogens section.