Flu epidemic leading to shortage of blood supply at U.S. hospitals

This year’s widespread, prolonged influenza outbreak is causing havoc on hospitals around the country, draining supplies of certain IV fluids as well as blood supplies.

Local Red Cross chapters are reporting a combination of things affecting blood drives: Bad weather and a worse-than-normal flu season.

An American media outlet reported:

Triangle blood donation centers that supply area hospitals are experiencing a drop in donors as a national flu epidemic is keeping people home.

The Blood Connection announced an urgent need for all blood types this week, saying the flu outbreak has cut blood inventories by at least 10 percent. The organization lost two days worth of blood from canceled blood drives.

The American Red Cross Carolinas said bad weather forced the cancellation of 121 blood drives in January, resulting in the loss of about four days of blood collections. The organization is also seeing a lower donor turnout this month because of the flu.

What’s more, both groups send blood to aid victims of disasters and emergencies around the country. The regional chapter of the Red Cross has already sent blood to Florida in response to Wednesday’s school shooting that left 17 dead, and The Blood Connection is reviewing a request for blood to treat Florida shooting victims.

Local Red Cross officials said they are largely mitigating shortages by implementing various inventory management plans. [source]

Analysis: Anytime there is a shortage of blood there is an increased risk of mortality in affected parts of the country, should a disaster or emergency occur. The flu epidemic is currently winding down but it remains a health and readiness threat.

Jon E. Dougherty is a political, foreign policy and national security analyst and reporter with nearly 30 years of experience in both fields. A U.S. Army veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom, he holds BA in Political Science from Ashford University and an MA in National Security Studies/Intelligence Analysis from American Military University.

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