Flu season slows the flow of blood donations

The blood center in Ottumwa is short on supply, partly due to this year's flu season.

The number of blood donations always slows during the holidays, but this year has been particularly rough on blood supply in Southeast Iowa.

At their last blood drive earlier this month, the Mississippi Valley Regional Blood Center hoped to collect 110 pints of blood, but didn't quite reach their goal.

Employees say levels are especially low because of the nasty flu epidemic sweeping the country this winter. Right now, the show rate in the area is down 10%, which means more donors are canceling their appointments because of their health. All together, that attributes to 50-70 less pints of blood being collected.

"Right now, we're definitely meeting the needs of our hospitals, we're just seeing blood inventory levels at our hub centers, our distribution centers, lower than we would like," said Ashleigh Richmond, Donor Relations Consultant at Mississippi Valley Regional Blood Center. "What that would cause is if there was a high usage at a particular area, that would mean pulling blood products from another area to get them to where they're needed. So we're still meeting the needs of our hospitals and patients, but we definitely need those folks [who] are healthy and well to come out and donate blood because lots of our blood donors aren't able to donate right now."

Richmond said as far as the blood center in concerned, you should be symptom-free and off antibiotics for a full 48 hours to be well enough to donate.

There is also a particular shortage of O negative, so anyone willing to donate with that blood type is especially appreciated.

To see when a blood drive is being held in your area, call the blood center at 800-452-1097.