HEALTH

Been To Bali? Got A New Tattoo? You Can't Give Blood Right Now

Donors are being turned away because of exotic travel and ink.

16/08/2016 10:55 AM AEST | Updated 16/08/2016 12:44 PM AEST
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Tattoos and Thailand are not the best friends of the blood service.

A trip to Thailand or Bali is practically an annual right for the everyday Aussie, but it bars travelers from giving blood for four months after the trip.

Increased travel, along with the popularity of tattoos and is attributing to a 27 percent drop in new blood donors at the Australian Red Cross Blood Service.

Spokesman Shaun Inguanzo told The Huffington Post Australia last financial year, 132,000 donors were told they couldn't give blood because they'd travelled to a risky location in the last four months and 15,000 were turned away because they'd had a tattoo in the previous six months.

Inguanzo said travel to some regions were associated with a risk of being infected with hepatitis B and C, HIV, malaria and the cancer-causing human t-lymphotropic virus.

"They're big nasty ones," Inguanzo said.

Yuri Arcurs
You don't even have to do anything risky in Thailand.

"The crux of blood testing is that regardless of how sophisticated it is -- and ours is quite advanced -- they're never very good at reliably picking up the early stages of infection.

"Often people don't show any signs of being sick and the testing might not pick it up.

"Instead, we look at the latest surveillance data from around the world and make decisions based on the risk of acquiring an early stage infection."

The patient who receives blood is often already in a life-threatening situation so it's our duty, our mandate, to make sure blood is as safe as possible.Shaun Inguanzo

The list of risky locations is ever changing depending on surveillance data and Inguanzo said they erred on the side of caution.

"After a trip to Bali, you probably don't have malaria but that risk is extrapolated across 1.3 million blood donations.

"The patient who receives blood is often already in a life-threatening situation so it's our duty, our mandate, to make sure blood is as safe as possible."

Jochen Sands
People who receive blood are often vulnerable to illness.

Inguanzo said tattoos were associated with certain infectious diseases.

"Obviously there are a lot of very good tattoo parlours out there but we don't known who you went to," Inguanzo said.

"It doesn't mean you can't give blood -- we get a lot of support from tattooed donors because they're generally not afraid of needles. What Dylan Lewis, the host of Rage used to do was come in and give blood before he got a new tattoo.

"If you travel a lot or you get quite a few tattoos, that might mean you're only able to give blood once a year. But that one life-saving donation is still a life-saving donation."

Supplied
Australia Post is missing it's 'A's and its 'O'.

To attract new donors, the service has joined the global Missing Type campaign to attract 100,000 new donors this financial year. As part of Missing Type, businesses like Qantas and Coles will drop the letters of their name that corresponds with common blood types.

Sign up as a new donor.

Supplied
There's some missing type on this Bondi Beach Life Saver's swimmers.

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