Did you know that if you travel to a malarial risk zone, you might be deferred from donating blood even if you aren’t ill? That’s because donors can be infected and symptom free and still transmit malaria through a blood transfusion.
Some of the top travel destinations and vacation spots for Bay Area dwellers fall into that category—including India, parts of Mexico, the Caribbean, the Philippines, and Thailand. Donors who have traveled to certain areas —India, for example—may be deferred from donating blood for one year. For that reason, donors who frequently travel often try to avoid malaria zones.*
*NOTE: On April 2, 2020, the FDA issued an updated guidance regarding blood donation deferrals for a number of risk factors, including travel to malaria-risk regions. See the latest deferral information at stanfordbloodcenter.org/travel.
In fact, travel is one of the major reasons for deferrals. Blood centers across the U.S., in their efforts to increase the safety of the blood supply, exclude large numbers of healthy people every year due to travel to malaria risk regions in Mexico, Central, and South America, even though they are considered “limited risk areas.” And now chikungunya, another painful disease spread by pesky mosquitoes, is setting up camp in places like the Caribbean and the Pacific Islands.
But still, entire continents – North America, Europe, and Australia – are pretty safe bets to avoid malaria. Hawaii, Vancouver, South of France, Majorca—there’s plenty to choose from. And if your heart is set on sandy beaches and bright blue water, consider the Seychelles in the Indian Ocean, or The Cook Islands or French Polynesia in the South Pacific. But there are plenty of vacation gems nestled in South America, Asia, and Africa too. Consider Japan, Argentina, or Morocco.
If you’re curious about the malaria risk in specific countries, the most current information available is the Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) Malaria Risk Map. This is a handy interactive tool that provides up-to-date CDC assessments of malaria risk, along with recommendations for preventive malaria treatment.
It’s very important to keep in mind, though, that this information can change often, as the probability of malaria infection can vary. The length of time spent in a malaria-endemic area and external conditions like the presence of mosquitoes, altitude, and the climate are all factors – whether insect repellants and anti-malarial drugs are used. That’s why it’s a great idea to check with us before you book your ticket.
When you travel for business or pleasure and cannot avoid traveling to a malarial risk area this summer, please consider scheduling a donation now for just before your departure since regular appointments will help SBC avoid summer shortages. Please make an appointment online https://sbcdonor.org/index.cfm or call (650) 723-7831 to schedule an appointment or request information.