A: Many viruses can be transmitted by blood transfusion. However there are no reported cases of people getting COVID-19 by blood transfusion so far. Let’s look at the details.
In 1628, British physician William Harvey reported the first description of blood circulation in Western medical literature. Soon after, transfusions were attempted. However, it was not until 1665 that the first successful dog-to-dog blood transfusion was made. From that point in history, many things have been tried for transfusion—even the transfusion of milk to do the work of blood.
The first successful transfusion was performed in 1818 by British obstetrician James Blundell. The transfusion was used to treat postpartum hemorrhage. And the donor was the patient’s husband. The 1901 discovery of the first three human blood types increased the success of blood transfusions. The national blood donation program was started by the Red Cross in the US in 1941. Since then, many have benefited from the transfusion of blood, plasma, albumin, and other blood products.
Currently, blood collected in the US is tested for several diseases that are known to transmit by blood: syphilis, hepatitis, HIV, and HTLV (a virus that can cause blood or nerve disease). Now, blood donations are tested for COVID-19 antibodies as well. In addition, temperature, anemia, and general health are monitored at the time of donation to assure the blood collected is safe.
The Red Cross no longer collects convalescent plasma for the Emergency Use Authorization to treat hospitalized COVID-19 patients. Treatment with convalescent plasma means transfusing the antibody-laden plasma of those who have recovered from COVID-19 to ease the course of disease for patients in the hospital. It is only used now in special cases and research at this time.
Because the virus that causes COVID-19 is transmitted primarily by respiratory droplets, not blood, contracting the disease through the transfusion of blood products is not likely. No reports of infection through blood transfusion have been made. So it is generally considered safe to donate and receive blood at this time.