In a nutshell, the answer is: yes, it's safe to donate.

"Because everything that is used is sterile, used one time and then destroyed," says Jane Smith with United Blood Services.

As for receiving, officials say that's also safe. In fact, these days they say blood transfusions are probably the safest that they've ever been with each pint of blood undergoing about 15 different tests before ever reaching the recipient. It's is this extensive effort which analysts say gives a transfusion recipient a one out of 2,000,000th chance of contracting a virus from the transfusion.

Here's something else you might not know, one blood donation can actually help up to three people with use of the red blood cells, the plasma and the platelets, which are often used for cancer or heart surgery patients.

"The really critical thing about platelets is that they only have a five-day maximum shelf life and with all the testing that has been done on those, we're looking at a maximum three days before those expire," says David Denham who supervisors the blood bank at Rush Hospital.

Speaking of expiring, there's also a certain amount of time before donated blood can even be used. Because of extensive testing in general donated blood can't be used until about 3 days after the donation and two days if you're lucky.

"So, when a patient comes in it's too late to donate for them then," says Denham. "That's why we say we always have to have blood on the shelf."

The United Blood Service office in Meridian serves more than 20 hospitals throughout east Mississippi and west Alabama. The office is open Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m. and on Friday from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m.

For more information call (601) 482-2482.

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