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As Dengue Spreads, Blood Banks Run Out of Platelets

A shortage of platelets has hit the port city, at a time when dengue cases are on an alarming rise over the last few weeks. All 17 blood banks in the city are battling a shortage of platelets, which is exacerbated by the demand from dengue patients admitted at various private and government hospitals. Speaking to TOI, K Pydi Raju, a biologist working for the Greater Visakhapatnam Municipal Corporation (GVMC), said a total of 865 dengue positive cases were reported from January 1 to September 9. Over 10 percent of these cases required platelets for treatment. Raju said most of the cases were reported from 27 problematic areas in the city, some of them being Madhurawada, Gajuwaka, and Kancharapalem. “Areas with open places, garage sheds, isolated buildings have a higher chance of an outbreak of dengue as the prevalence of virus is high in such areas. We are doing our best to prevent the spread of dengue,” Raju said. Dr KV Ram Kumar, managing director of Lakshmi Gayatri Hospital, said platelets are most needed whenever there is an outbreak of dengue.

R Sunitha, administrator of NTR Blood Bank in the city, said the demand for platelets as per reports is 150 units per day against their supply capacity of around 90 units per day. “The shortage occurs during situations when cases of dengue are reported.  The life span of platelets is also shorter than the blood to store. While blood can be stored up to 35-40 days, platelets can be stored only up to five days,” Sunita said. A unit of platelets (50ml) is priced at around ₹550-600 during ordinary days, but the demand is pushing up prices. According to an official who oversees blood banks and blood supply, the city has a total of 17 blood banks. As per the official calculations, the normal monthly requirement of blood is estimated at around 1 percent of the total population in the area. In case of Vizag city, the total population is over 20 lakhs. The monthly normal blood requirement should be over 2000 units per month. “However, against the normal figures, the monthly requirement of the blood in the city is touching around 6000-7000 units monthly. This is attributed to many reasons like demand from outside patients who stay at local hospitals like KGH for treatment,” the official told. The situation of the platelets is also the same as the blood in the city, the official added. – TOI