A spike in dengue fever cases is catapulting the demand for a human blood component called platelets for treating the disease. And in blood banks, the demand has created an artificial shortage of platelets that help in clotting.

District Medical Officer Haseena Mohammed said blood banks were running short of platelets mainly because private hospitals were prescribing transfusion of platelets even when a dengue case didn’t demand it.

The normal count of platelets in the blood is 1.5 lakh to 4 lakh and it would need to be supplemented externally when the count goes down below 20,000. But a low platelet count may not necessarily indicate dengue; a viral fever could also bring it down, said doctors.

K. Shylaja, the project director of Kerala State AIDS Control Society, under which blood banks function, told The Hindu that it was only a supportive treatment as has been said by the World Health Organisation.

Platelets may be given if the patient showed bleeding tendency even when the count was at 50,000, said Dr. Mohammed. Further, it is not necessary that donor and patient are of the same blood group to donate platelets.

Dr. Shylaja said that instead of striving to reduce the vector that is spreading the disease, more and more people are now required to provide platelets to treat one patient. “Usually, 6-8 units of platelets are needed if a dengue fever patient requires a transfusion and it would require at least four persons to donate blood to get one unit of blood platelets,” said Dr. N. Vijayakumar, medical officer in-charge of Aluva Blood Bank.

The blood banks that can store blood for about a month have to throw away the platelets if it is unused for 4 days due to short lifespan.

However, a haemaphresis machine in blood banks that have trained personnel can help selectively retrieve the blood component in a larger quantity without causing blood loss in the system. The donor can donate multiple times unlike a person who can donate whole blood only once in three months. Dr. Vijayakumar believes that such a machine located strategically at three different centres across the State can help roll over the crisis created by the high demand of platelets.

Fever update

Seven people were confirmed to have dengue fever among cases that were reported from Udayamperoor, Kanjoor, Muvattupuzha, Manjapra and Maneed. The total number of people who reached the district government hospital with fever were 1,064 and 79 were treated as in-patients. 161 people reported acute diarrhoeal diseases and 12 were admitted.

Outpatient service

The Cochin Medical College at Kalamassery has started the evening outpatient service from Monday.

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