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American Red Cross asking COVID-19 survivors to donate convalescent plasma

The American Red Cross and the FDA believe plasma from a COVID-19 survivor could help boost a patient's ability to fight off the coronavirus.

PORTLAND, Ore. — There is a call to action from the American Red Cross. The nonprofit is asking people who have recovered from COVID-19 to donate convalescent plasma.

"We assume that plasma will have antibodies against the virus in it," said Dr. Randal Covin of the American Red Cross Pacific Northwest Region. "The hope is we transfuse those antibodies into a person with a current infection and hasn't made their own antibodies."

Dr. Covin thinks this will boost a patient's ability to fight off the coronavirus while they wait for their own immune system to make its own antibodies. 

As promising as this sounds, it is only an experimental treatment for COVID-19 patients.

"Their doctors would have to apply to get what we call an investigational new drug application, approved by the FDA, then their patient could get convalescent plasma," said Dr. Covin.

It appears an Oregon man may getting the treatment already. Late last week, Holly Jimenez posted on Facebook that her husband, Jose, was in the ICU and on a ventilator because of the coronavirus and he needed convalescent plasma. On Wednesday morning. Jimenez wrote that her husband received a unit of plasma and his vital signs were improving.

"We don't know for sure if it'll help but at least there's information out there that it could be beneficial," said Dr. Covin.

Take for instance the case of a Florida man. He was on life support and in a coma. Days after he was given plasma from a COVID-19 survivor, he improved enough to be taken off life support.

These sort of stories explain the urgent plea for COVID-19 survivors to donate their convalescent plasma.

"It's nationwide Red Cross and actually almost all blood centers across the country are working together on this," said Dr. Covin.

Dr. Covin says people who think they had the coronavirus but never received a positive test are not eligible to donate plasma. 

Convalescent plasma donors must have proof of a positive test and be symptom-free for at least 14 days. 

For more information, including how to fill out an eligibility form, click here

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