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It could save your life to know your blood type in Hong Kong. Here’s why.

If you are living here in Hong Kong and have Rh- blood, can you make sure you are protected if you urgently need a blood transfusion?

Posted on Feb 04, 2015 by Alexander Nellist

Do you know your own blood type? In countries like Japan and South Korea, where blood type is highly regarded and considered to possibly be predictive of personality, surveys have shown that over 97% of people know what their blood type is. While in other countries, like the Netherlands, Sweden, and the UK, the majority of people do not know their blood type. So if you don’t know your blood type and you live in Hong Kong, it would be in your best interest to find it out as soon as possible. Below, we dig into why it is so important to know your blood type in Hong Kong.

How blood types work

Ever since its establishment in 1901, the ABO Blood Group System has been critical in allowing medical professionals and organizations to save lives all over the world. The reason this system is of such importance comes down to the 3 ‘A’s’ of blood: Alleles, Antigens and Antibodies.

  • Alleles are the parts of our genes that make each of our traits either dominant or recessive. In blood, alleles give our blood cells ‘tags’ of a sort known as antigens.

  • Antigens let our body know that cells belong to us and are not foreign pathogens or other potentially harmful substances.

  • When such a pathogen is detected, antibodies do their best to destroy the perceived threat.

This is where the root of the problem of mixing blood types comes in. If a person is given the wrong blood type, with the wrong antigens, their antibodies will perceive the new blood to be a dangerous substance and actively attack it, which leads to blood clots. That’s why blood type is important, but why should people in Hong Kong know their blood type?

Supply and demand

The fact is that there is a certain type of blood that is extremely rare in Hong Kong. Due to a very low percentage of the population with Rh negative (Rh-) blood types in Hong Kong (versus Rh+ blood types, which are far more common), the demand for Rh- blood is extremely low. Some people might assume that the numbers would still reach equilibrium within the population of Hong Kong, but they are not taking some vital facts into account.

According to the Hong Kong Red Cross, while ethnic Chinese people only have a 1 in 370 chance of having Rh- blood, for other populations the chance is much greater. Caucasian people, for example, have a 1 in 7 chance of having Rh- blood. This means that many people who are transplants to Hong Kong have a significantly higher chance of needing a type of blood that will be much scarcer in Hong Kong than in the area they hail from.

Supply levels

It was reported in 2011 that the 6 major HK hospitals only keep up to 2 units of Rh- blood on site, with at least 50 more units located at the King’s Park blood bank. Doctors at the hospitals can use the initial on-hand units while they request more from King’s Park, but when someone is in need of blood, there is a good chance they are not going to have a long time to wait for it.

This is actually a problem in many Asian nations such as China, Japan and Korea, where people with Rh- blood make up less than 1% of the local population; especially so in cities with large expatriate communities, where local donations may not provide ample enough supply of Rh-  blood.

Give and let live

If you are living here in Hong Kong and have Rh- blood, how can you make sure you are protected if you urgently need a blood transfusion? Of course, the #1 way to make sure that your local blood banks have a store of your blood type is to donate regularly. The Hong Kong Red Cross is a great place to look to find the most convenient donation location. In fact, Hong Kong has had a blood inventory shortage recently, so donations from all types of donors are very much appreciated.

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