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Unsanitary Blood Stations Shut Down

More than 50 unsanitary blood collection stations across China have been closed down, the Ministry of Health announced yesterday.

The closures were yet another step in ongoing efforts to safeguard a healthy blood supply. They follow checks started in May by a task force jointly established by the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Public Security, Ministry of Supervision and State Food and Drug Administration.

159 blood collection stations and blood banks were randomly selected and checked from more than 900 blood collectors and 36 blood producers across the country. The task force exposed illegal or poor practices in 52 of the 159, officials said yesterday in Beijing.

At the same time, local governments were urged to set up ongoing inspections to ensure blood safety and improve management, said Wang Yu, deputy director of the Ministry of Health's Medical Policy Office.

Most of the stations shut down had poor hygiene conditions, failed to give strict medical checks to donors or were involved in organizing illegal blood selling.

The Lintong Blood Plasma Collection Station in northwest China's Shaanxi Province, for example, did not check the medical history of blood donors, some of whom had Hepatitis B.

Meanwhile in Shanghai, police have detained 10 people suspected of illegally organizing blood sales. Blood sales not only risk spreading blood borne pathogens like HIV and HBV (the virus that causes Hepatitis B), but exacerbate the ruthless exploitation of the poor, Wang said.

Before the country began to screen blood for HIV in 1997, many people, mostly poverty-stricken farmers, were infected. Since the average incubation time of the virus is eight years, most of these people are expected to develop AIDS in the near future.

Legislators have taken several steps to ensure better implementation of the Blood Donation Law that came into effect in 1998 to reduce the system's reliance on the sale of blood and, according to the Chinese Society of Blood Transfusion, 85 percent of blood used in China in 2003 was collected from donors.

(China Daily October 21, 2004)

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