You Are Not Eligible to Donate

I tried to donate blood last week during a drive at work (interesting side note, Boeing pays for time spent donating blood). One of my coworkers asked me and I thought it would be a fun experience, especially since I haven’t donated in a while.

I knew that because of all my recent travel, there was a chance I couldn’t donate, but I thought that enough time had passes and that at least I hadn’t been to Africa.

I told the nurse what areas I had been to, Europe, Eastern Europe, and Haiti. She was pretty sure I wouldn’t be eligible to donate, but we went through each country I visited just to make sure. The nurse meticulously wrote down every single country and major city I visited, from Moscow, Russia all the way through Frankfurt, Germany, and Haiti. As it turns out, all of Haiti is at risk for malaria. And despite the fact that I had taken chloroquine, an anti-malaria drug, I have to wait an entire year until I can give blood again.

I understand the need to be safe, and I promise I’m not complaining, but it seems like the odds of someone actually getting malaria are low enough that it should be worthwhile to collect the blood, test it, and use it if it’s clean. What diseases are tested for anyway?