The American Red Cross is declaring an emergency blood shortage as the number of donors reaches a 20-year low

According to the American Red Cross, the United States is facing an emergency blood shortage and there is growing concern that a combination of severe winter weather and seasonal respiratory illnesses could cause more people to stop donating and that the shortage could delay medical procedures.

The number of people voluntarily donating blood is at its lowest level in two decades, and over the past two decades the number donating through the Red Cross has fallen by about 40%, the nonprofit announced Sunday.

Now there doesn’t seem to be enough donated blood to meet the demand of hospitals and patients in need. Data from the national organization America’s Blood Centers shows that as of Monday, at least 17 community blood centers have one-day or less supply, indicating they need donations as quickly as possible.

“One of the most distressing situations for a doctor is a hospital full of patients and an empty refrigerator with no blood products,” said Dr. Pampee Young, chief physician of the Red Cross, the country’s largest blood supplier, in the newspaper announcement. “In our country, a person needs life-saving blood every two seconds – and its availability can be the difference between life and death. However, blood is only available through the generosity of those who roll up their sleeves to donate.”

According to the Red Cross, there was a donation shortage of almost 7,000 units in the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day.

“As we come out of the holidays and look at what hospital demand is starting to look like, we can see that we will need approximately 8,000 additional donations each week in January to strengthen supply,” said Dr. Eric Gehrie, executive arts director. for the Red Cross, said Monday.

A donation typically involves the collection of one unit of blood, which is equivalent to about a pint, and experts estimate that a single car accident victim could require as many as 100 units of blood.

“We hear all the time about really dramatic things happening in hospitals – of postpartum women having significant unexpected bleeding and needing tens or even hundreds of units of blood to survive, and then they survive because the blood is available. The same goes for people who have had an accident or who need a very complicated surgery that involves a lot of blood loss,” Gehrie said. “If that blood isn’t available, it really diminishes the ability to offer that to someone in need.”

The American Red Cross announced a national blood shortage and called for more donations in September, and the blood inventory subsequently recovered.

However, according to the Red Cross, supply has fallen again “to critically low levels across the country,” and in recent weeks the organization has had to limit the distribution of type O blood products – one of the most commonly transfused blood types – to hospitals.

“When the Red Cross tries to determine how much blood is needed to supply hospitals, it takes into account seasonal changes — and there are certainly a lot of seasonal changes that happen around the holidays,” Gehrie said. “One thing that is very different this time is that the demand for hospitals, even during the holiday season with less occupancy, has been higher than in previous years. And the lower donations, as a result of the seasonal numbers, combined with the unexpectedly higher demand from hospitals, are really contributing to the emergency we are currently facing.”

The Red Cross is now calling on healthcare professionals and the public to donate blood to help restore the country’s supply.

The two types of blood products most often needed are platelets and red blood cells, Gehrie said.

“The need for platelets is constant because they last only five days after donation. As a result, it’s not really possible to build up a large stockpile that we can draw from in the future, because that stockpile would expire in a few days, and the only thing that maintains the platelet supply is committed donors” , he said. . “With red blood cells the situation is a little different. Red blood cells can persist for up to 42 days after collection.”

In August, the Red Cross announced that more gay men will be eligible to donate blood by using a more inclusive, risk-based individual assessment to determine eligibility to donate blood regardless of sexual orientation, sex or gender. Historically, gay and bisexual men were not allowed to donate.

Volunteers can make appointments to donate blood or platelets at or by calling 1-800-RED-CROSS. This month, the Red Cross and the National Football League are teaming up to offer volunteers the chance to win a trip for two to Super Bowl LVII in Las Vegas. Donors are automatically registered for a chance to win.

Volunteers can also find blood donation centers in their area using the Blood Donation Site Locator on the Association for the Advancement of Blood & Biotherapies website.

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