SA National Blood Service worker with coronavirus was not near blood banks or clinics

The SANBS has urged donors to continue donating blood during the coronavirus outbreak.
The SANBS has urged donors to continue donating blood during the coronavirus outbreak.
Image: 123RF/Sudok1

A SA National Blood Service worker employed at  its head office in Roodepoort, Johannesburg, tested positive for Covid-19 on Friday after travelling overseas — but did not go anywhere near clinics or blood banks.

In a statement to TimesLIVE, spokesperson Silungile Mlambo said the employee however had not been in contact with, or in proximity of, SANBS clinics or blood banks and that operations were continuing as normal.

Mhlambo said the employee informed the organisation immediately and precautionary measures were instantly put in place to safeguard employees and the community.

“All measures are being taken to protect our employees, donors and all stakeholders. There are presently no repercussions for patients needing SANBS.

“Our staff in the field are educated to disclose if they are feeling unwell or exhibiting any flu-like symptoms or symptoms of infection (fever, cough, runny nose, sore throat and shortness of breath), and have been asked not to come to work if they are unwell.”

Mhlambo said under the guidance of the National Institute for Communicable Diseases, the organisation identified all those who were in close direct contact with the affected colleague and, though  at very low risk of infection, they were requested to undergo a 14-day self-quarantine and monitoring as recommend by the NICD and the World Health Organisation.

“It is extremely unlikely for these staff members to have become infected. This highly precautionary measure is to limit the risk of spread to other SANBS employees, families and the community at large.”

Timelapse video shot at Melbourne's Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity shows a sample of the coronavirus successfully growing in the laboratory. It will provide expert international laboratories with crucial information to help combat the virus. The virus has so far killed at least 117 people and infected over 7000 people worldwide.

Mlambo urged donors to keep donating blood to ensure that the life-saving blood stocks did not drop.

She said all donors would be screened at the door and mobile sites and their clinics were all equipped with additional antiseptic sprays and alcohol wipes.

“Importantly, we are also encouraging and educating donors to delay donation if they are exhibiting any flu-like symptoms or symptoms of infection until they are in good health or if they travelled to countries with known cases within the last 21 days.

“Finally, we want to reiterate previous statements that SANBS does not test for coronavirus as respiratory viruses are not transmitted through blood and that the public should not use SANBS donor centres as testing centres.”

As of March 13 2020, the coronavirus had infected more than 130,000 people and killed more than 4,700 worldwide. The symptoms of Covid-19 can be similar to those of the common cold or flu. Symptoms that warrant further testing include shortness of breath, a high persistent fever, and being unable to eat or drink.

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