A woman donates blood in 2012 (Ed Jones / AFP)

Donating blood in US does not get you a novel coronavirus test

Copyright AFP 2017-2020. All rights reserved.

Social media users are claiming that people can get a novel coronavirus test by donating blood. This is false; the two organizations responsible for collecting the vast majority of the blood supply in the United States said they are not testing for COVID-19.

“CORONAVIRUS LOOPHOLE!!!!! If you don’t have insurance and can’t afford to take the $3200 test for the virus ($1000 with insurance), DONATE BLOOD. They HAVE to test you for the virus in order to donate blood. Tell your friends! Tell your family!!!!!” said one tweet, which was retweeted nearly 100,000 times and liked more than 300,000 times before a user deleted it.

A screenshot of a now-deleted tweet taken on March 11, 2020

“I don’t want to contribute to hysteria or medical misinformation,” the user -- whose location is given as New York -- wrote on Twitter, explaining why she deleted the tweet about blood donation allegedly leading to testing.

But images of the deleted tweet are being shared on Facebook herehere and here.

And other tweets from accounts identified as being US-based that carry the same or similar messages continue to circulate online.

A screenshot of a Facebook post taken on March 12, 2020

Both America's Blood Centers (ABC) -- whose member organizations collect nearly 60 percent of the US blood supply -- and the American Red Cross, which collects around 40 percent, said they do not test for COVID-19.

“Blood centers are not testing individuals or screening directly for coronavirus,” ABC Chief Executive Officer Kate Fry told AFP by phone.

All donors are however screened for general health and wellness, including a temperature check, Fry said.

“We are encouraging healthy individuals to come donate, but if people are not feeling well, they should stay home,” she said.

ABC has warned that “concerns over the coronavirus are negatively impacting the nation’s blood supply.”

The American Red Cross told AFP by email that it “is not testing people or donated blood for COVID-19.”

“It’s important to emphasize that there are no data or evidence that this coronavirus can be transmitted by blood transfusions," it said.

While urging those who are healthy to donate blood, the Red Cross has asked people to postpone doing so for 28 days if they have been diagnosed with the virus, or been in contact with someone who has or is suspected of having it.

The requested waiting period also applies to people who have traveled to China, Iran, Italy or South Korea -- countries in which the virus is widespread.

The novel coronavirus has spread from China around the world, killing more than 4,500 people and wreaking havoc on the global economy.

UPDATE: This article was updated on March 12, 2020 to add that the claim is spreading on
Facebook.
 
W.G. Dunlop