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Disaster-proofing our blood supply

We need to beat the weather to supply safe blood all around Australia, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. You probably know that the winter cold and flu season decreases the number of healthy blood donors in Australia (by about 1,000 donors per week), but changes in the weather can also affect the blood supply in other ways.

Flooding rains

Floods in Australia have recently been more widespread and frequent, so our blood supply and distribution network includes back up plans. The design and locations of our four processing centres in Perth, Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane help to minimise the threat of bad weather.

Each processing centre can operate for four days without external water, gas, electricity or sewerage!

Managing floods is included in our building designs, and has already been tested at the Sydney facility. A month after the building’s commissioning, the area was swamped with torrential rain, causing flash flooding. Business was able to continue as usual because the facility is four metres above ground level and includes a levee to protect the basement car park.

Diseases like dengue

Our researchers are keeping a watchful eye on diseases that could threaten our blood supply. Dr Helen Faddy and her group in Research and Development are actively monitoring the potential risk from blood-borne diseases, and testing methods to ensure the blood supply remains safe in the future.

Dengue fever is one of those diseases. It’s caused by a virus carried by mosquitos, and causes fever, muscle and joint pains and in severe cases, can be fatal. If a person who unknowingly had the dengue virus donated blood, the disease could be passed on to the recipient.

“Dengue outbreaks occur regularly in northern Australia, and because there’s no screening test for dengue virus approved in Australia, we manage this risk by not collecting whole blood from areas where the virus is active,” said Dr Faddy.

“With a changing future climate, mosquitos may breed at different times and spread to new locations. This could increase outbreak frequency, and we may even see outbreaks in new areas. This could impact the blood supply by reducing the number of areas where whole blood donations can be collected.

“For the future, we’re exploring technologies for processing blood, which could inactivate dengue and other viruses, and are developing new screening methods to test donations.”

Our Research and Development team is looking ahead to make sure Australia always has one of the safest blood supplies in the world, no matter what the weather!


Dr Alison Gould

Scientific Communications Specialist

At Lifeblood, Alison works with members of the Research and Development team to share their stories of science with their colleagues, collaborators and the public. Alison trained in chemistry and biochemistry, and gained a PhD in biochemistry from the University of New South Wales. She worked as a researcher in the biotechnology industry developing and manufacturing biopharmaceuticals. She loves working with scientists from all disciplines, and helping others understand the significance of their research.

Member of the Australia Science Communicators
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This is more a question than a comment as I cannot find an answer anywhere else on your website: Is the whole process of blood donation and blood processing and blood product creation completely free from profit? What I mean is, once the blood is collected, is it processed entirely by the Red Cross and then provided free of charge to hospitals? Or are the blood products made by a for-profit company and then sold to the hospitals? Are any for-profit companies involved in the process in any way, at any stage? I understand that the processing would be costly, for materials and staffing and time, as well as transport, as well as needing to employ the nurses who collect the blood in the first place. I am curious to find out how this is covered. By government of for-profit organisation? Hoping you can help with these questions

Hi Mary-Lou Thanks for your question. We're a not-for-profit organisation over here at Lifeblood. That means we're entirely funded by government and don't make a cent off your donations. The money the government gives us helps us collect, test, process and supply blood to Australians. The National Blood Authority manages the money given to us, so you can find out more on their website at

I have been a donor for approx 40 years, starting on whole blood at the night clinic at Redcliffe hospital when the staff were all volunteers & needles were inserted by a Doctor. After About 12 years on whole blood I was switched to plasma & am now approaching 400 donations. Why do I do it? Because it is something that I can do for the community on a regular basis & it might just make someone's life a little easier.

Hi Dave It's wonderful to hear that your are still donating after 40 years. That's commitment! Plasma is a remarkable gift, and goes on to help patients in many ways. I hope you have many healthy years of donating "liquid gold" ahead.

Four meters above ground level(!), that’s cool! You guys think of everything :)

We've got lots of smart people on the job, to make sure blood's always there when you need it :)

I have been glad to be able to donate blood for most of my adult life. I am now in my 70's and am still able to give (though only plasma for 3years since visiting New Guinea on a cruise). I was a Science Teacher during my working years and still remember, when I was a young teacher in a country town, having my class come in to watch me donating, as part of the lesson on "blood". Happy to continue giving while I am allowed.

What a great story Desmond! It's great to hear that you're still donating plasma. I hope you have many happy and healthy years of donating ahead of you.

I live on the Far South Coast of NSW and donate whenever the bus comes to the closest centre (Corrigans Beach), which is about an hours drive from here. I have one if the rare types and would happily donate more often if they could increase the visits.

Thank you for your feedback and for you keenness to donate more often! Fortunately we are currently able to meet patient needs by encouraging new and existing donors to visit our existing sites. With our current structure working well there are no immediate plans to collect blood in the far South Coast of NSW. Thank you for taking the time to get in contact with us, we appreciate your interest in donating blood and would love to welcome you at any of our donor centres if you happen to be travelling through.

Interesting article on the processing centres. What is the business continuity process for collection, following an event if significance? Would the existing centres be utilised, or are there secondary locations in the plan also?

Thanks for your question Chris. We have over 100 fixed collection centres across Australia, along with 38 mobile units. Business continuity is something we take very seriously, because the need for blood never stops.

I think articles that explain the process and need for blood donations increases our awareness and hopefully increases the number of donors. Thank you for publishing this type if material.

Thanks for your feedback Catrina! Do let us know if there are any particular topics you'd like to see covered on our blog.

I am very happy to donate blood, but i have very narrow veins, and it is getting harder to make a donation due to the size of the needle compared to the size of my small (and by now nobbly veins with scar tissue). Is there not another way i can donate my blood. What about a smaller sized needle? or taking blood from a vein in another location? or even a 'port'? anyway i want to keep donating but will need your innovation to do so.

Hi Kim Have you tried eating a savoury meal and drinking lots of water before you donate? If you're well hydrated it makes it easier for us to find your veins, and speeds up the donation process. If in doubt, you can even ask one of the team for a drink of water or juice, or something to eat, before your donation. For safety reasons it is not possible to donate blood from anywhere else on your body. This is because all of our equipment, including the donor chair, is designed to take blood from your inner arm. Our medical team is extremely qualified at ensuring this donation is a quick and relatively painless process for you. If you have any concerns, let one of our friendly team know when you arrive, and they will give you extra-special attention. Meanwhile, we're working behind the scenes to find innovative ways to make the process even more comfortable.

I worked in the Blood collection areas of Red Cross With my Aunty , my Mum and very close family friends from when I was 13 right up to the age of 19 learned alot about cross matching , and blood bourne diseases and how Plasma is seperated from Whole blood , Tahnk you Blood Services iam still wit ARC and now doing emergency Services.

Hi Mick Thank you so much for sharing the story of your work with us. It sounds really interesting and it would be great for us to learn more about what you did. Can you please send an email to so we can contact you?

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The information on this blog is presented by the Lifeblood’s Research and Development Team for the purposes of sharing general information and facilitating discussion about blood donation. It is not intended to be used or relied upon as medical advice. If you have a medical question, please consult your GP or health professional. For information on blood donation, or to find out if you’re eligible to donate, call 13 14 95.