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Dengue outbreak: Blood banks running out of platelets as dengue fuels demand

  • Published at 01:46 am July 25th, 2019
Aedes mosquito Bigstock

At least 560 new dengue patients hospitalized between Tuesday and Wednesday

A continuous increase in the number of people infected with dengue has created a huge demand for platelets, a human blood component vital to prevent bleeding.

A number of blood transfusion and donation centres are now struggling to meet the fast-rising demand for platelets needed for dengue patients undergoing treatment at different public and private hospitals, sources at the transfusion centres told Dhaka Tribune. 

Shahed Mehbub, whose four-and-a-half-year-old son is admitted to the paediatric intensive care unit (PICU)of a private hospital in Dhaka, had to find donors at very short notice. 

“My son’s blood group is B positive. I reached out to dozens of family members, friends, and colleagues to get the blood,” he told Dhaka Tribune. 

“On the first day of his admission, my son’s platelet count was over 52000, but it fell to 49,000 within a day. Then it fell to 20,000 within the next 24 hours, making all of us worried,” the father said. 

Shahed was able to get the blood his son needed, because he was able to contact a large number of people who were able to donate.

“But for those who do not have many family members or acquaintances in Dhaka, managing blood for platelet transfusion is difficult. It gets even more difficult if the required blood is of a negative group,” he added.

Dengue, a mosquito-borne virus, spreads among humans when an infected Aedes mosquito bites them. The disease has no known cure or vaccine yet.

Also Read- 560 more dengue patients hospitalized

At least eight deaths due to dengue have been reported this year, all in Dhaka city, according to the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS).

At least 560 new cases of dengue infection were reported across Bangladesh yesterday. 

This is the highest number of hospital admissions due to dengue in a single day this year. 

With yesterday’s tally, the total number of dengue patients between January 1 and July 24 this year stands at 8,565.

Currently, 2,058 patients are undergoing treatment for the disease, according to the Health Emergency Operation Centre and the Control Room of DGHS.

The number of patients was only 184 in May, but rose to 1,796 in June.

Why is the demand for platelets so high?

The platelet count in a healthy adult ranges from 150,000 to 400,000 per microlitre of blood.

But when a dengue patient gets haemorrhagic fever, it causes damage to the lymphatic system and blood vessels, promoting  bleeding from the nose and gums. This happens when the number of platelets, tiny blood cells that help form clots to stop bleeding, drops in a patient’s system. 

Dr Tarek M Hussain, director (blood program) at Bangladesh Red Crescent Society, said  patients must be admitted to a hospital when their platelet count goes below 65,000. When the count drops below 20,000, the patient needs transfusion.

Also Read- Number of dengue cases continue to rise

Collecting blood of positive blood groups is relatively easy as positive blood groups are more common. But negative blood groups are usually rare, and finding donors for negative blood groups is difficult.

Md Imran Hawlader, of Quantum Lab, a voluntary blood donation program, said demand for platelets spiked manifold because of the rise in the number of dengue patients.

“On a regular day, we are asked for 40-50 bags of platelets, but now we are providing 160-180 bags every day on average,” he said.

It takes four hours to process the platelets from a whole bag of blood after collection, Imran said. 

If a donor is available from the patient’s side, it costs Tk3,800 to run different tests before the blood can be processed, although blood collection and cross-matching is free at the lab.

In case a patient is unable to pay the fees, Quantum Lab provides them the blood free of cost, he added.

Dr Tarek M Hussain of the Red Crescent Society said they were dealing with fourfold the usual demand for platelets because of the dengue outbreak.

“Usually, the demand for platelets accounts for 200-250 bags each month, but in the last one month we provided 1,100 bags. This is the highest demand we have ever faced,” he said.

Four donors are need for a bag of platelets, but for many, it is impossible to find four donors at a time. So families and friends of dengue patients are reaching out to the blood banks.

Tarek said he was fearing a massive shortage of blood during the upcoming Eid holidays, when a large number of people will leave Dhaka, creating a shortage of donors – particularly if the upward trend of dengue continues.

“We may face a disaster during the holidays if the blood banks and patient attendants don’t keep in touch with their own donors,” he added, suggesting that everyone prepare a contingency plan for the holidays.

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