CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - Vitalant, a Northeast Ohio nonprofit blood bank agency, is at critically low blood levels now that the flu season is in full swing.
“We strive to maintain a four-day supply of blood just to provide what patients need, and currently we’re at less than half that for certain blood types,” said Dr. Ralph Vassallo, chief medical officer at Vitalant. “Blood on the shelf helps patients every day for traumas, cancer treatments and critical transfusions, and enables us to be ready if disaster strikes.”
Over the holidays, Vitalant, which supplies blood to almost every major hospital in Northeast Ohio, took in 21,000 fewer donations than expected.
“It’s a busy time of year, which leads to fewer donations,” Sarah Wering said, who is the marketing and communications specialist for Vitalant. “In addition, winter storms and flu season have had an impact on donors’ abilities to give blood.”
Those who have had the flu are asked to be asymptomatic for at least a week before they donate.
Donors are strongly encouraged to give blood as soon as possible by calling 877-258-4825 (877-25-VITAL) or going online to vitalant.org, according to a media release asking for help.
The current shortage is impacting all blood types, but there is an even larger need for blood type O donations and platelets.
Here is a breakdown of the population by blood type:
- 39% of the US population is O+
- 9% of the US population is O- (O- is the universal red blood cell type, meaning that anyone can receive an O- blood transfusion.)
- 30% of the US population is A+
- 6% of the US population is A-
- 9% of the US population is B+
- 2% of the US population is B-
- 4% of the US population is AB+ (AB is the Universal Plasma Donor, anyone can receive an AB plasma donation)
- 1% of the US population is AB- (AB is the Universal Plasma Donor, anyone can receive an AB plasma donation)
Blood taken in by Vitalant in Northeast Ohio stays in Northeast Ohio, and can be used for the following:
- Trauma patients who have an immediate need for blood to stabilize their condition. A car accident victim can require upwards of 100 pints of blood (1 pint = 1 donation, generally).
- Cancer patients who rely on platelet transfusions to replace cells killed by chemo treatments.
- Chronic disease patients who have diseases that require regular blood transfusions that cannot wait.
- Patients with elective surgeries scheduled – if the blood supply is not sufficient, their surgeries may be cancelled to preserve the blood supply for emergencies.