Disaster-proofing our blood supply
We need to beat the weather to supply safe blood all around Australia, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. You probably know that the winter cold and flu season decreases the number of healthy blood donors in Australia (by about 1,000 donors per week), but changes in the weather can also affect the blood supply in other ways.
Floods in Australia have recently been more widespread and frequent, so our blood supply and distribution network includes back up plans. The design and locations of our four processing centres in Perth, Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane help to minimise the threat of bad weather.
Each processing centre can operate for four days without external water, gas, electricity or sewerage!
Managing floods is included in our building designs, and has already been tested at the Sydney facility. A month after the building’s commissioning, the area was swamped with torrential rain, causing flash flooding. Business was able to continue as usual because the facility is four metres above ground level and includes a levee to protect the basement car park.
Diseases like dengue
Our researchers are keeping a watchful eye on diseases that could threaten our blood supply. Dr Helen Faddy and her group in Research and Development are actively monitoring the potential risk from blood-borne diseases, and testing methods to ensure the blood supply remains safe in the future.
Dengue fever is one of those diseases. It’s caused by a virus carried by mosquitos, and causes fever, muscle and joint pains and in severe cases, can be fatal. If a person who unknowingly had the dengue virus donated blood, the disease could be passed on to the recipient.
“Dengue outbreaks occur regularly in northern Australia, and because there’s no screening test for dengue virus approved in Australia, we manage this risk by not collecting whole blood from areas where the virus is active,” said Dr Faddy.
“With a changing future climate, mosquitos may breed at different times and spread to new locations. This could increase outbreak frequency, and we may even see outbreaks in new areas. This could impact the blood supply by reducing the number of areas where whole blood donations can be collected.
“For the future, we’re exploring technologies for processing blood, which could inactivate dengue and other viruses, and are developing new screening methods to test donations.”
Our Research and Development team is looking ahead to make sure Australia always has one of the safest blood supplies in the world, no matter what the weather!