BACKGROUND: On May 12, 2008, a severe earthquake struck China's Sichuan Province. The nationwide outpouring of charity resulted in a surge of subsequent blood donations. The quantity and quality of these donations were examined in comparison with routine donations.

STUDY DESIGN AND METHODS: Whole blood and apheresis donations from five geographically different blood centers collected within 1 week postearthquake were compared with those collected during the rest of the year. Regional differences, demographic characteristics, first-time and repeat donor status, and infectious disease screening markers associated with these donations were compared by earthquake status using chi-square statistics. Poisson regression analysis examined the number of daily donations by earthquake status after adjusting for center, day of week, and seasonal variations.

RESULTS: The number of daily donations across five blood centers increased from 685 on a typical day to 1151 in the postearthquake week. The surge was observed in both sexes and across different education levels, age, and ethnicity groups and three blood centers and was significant after adjusting for confounding covariates. The influx of first-time donors (89.5%) was higher than that of repeat donors (34%). There was a significant change in the overall screening reactive marker rates excluding alanine aminotransferase (2.06% vs. 1.72%% vs. 4.96%). However, when the individual screening test was analyzed separately, no significant differences were found.

CONCLUSION: Timely donations in response to a disaster are crucial to ensure emergency blood transfusion. The dramatically increased postearthquake donations suggest that Chinese blood centers are capable of handling emergency blood needs. Measures to maintain blood safety should be taken in times of emergency.