US blood banks hit ‘unprecedented’ critical shortage

The American Association of Blood Banks is pleading for blood donations after revealing the country is in short supply of the fluid.

"This is the worst shortage I've experienced since I've been in this in this line of work," AABB's Chief Medical Officer Dr. Claudia Cohn told USA Today

The AABB, which called the shortage "unprecedented," also warned that if the country’s blood supply continues to fall, it could lead to implications for patient care. 

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The American Red Cross also posted an alert about a blood shortage on its website. 

AABB says it will work with blood centers and the Red Cross to help solicit blood donations. They encourage donors to keep their appointments to make a blood donation. 

According to USA Today, AABB's task force, Interorganizational Task Force on Domestic Disasters and Acts of Terrorism, said the nation’s blood supply has dropped to level "red," meaning many blood banks’ inventories have up to a one-day supply. 

Some New England hospitals are delaying or rescheduling surgeries because of a shortage of blood donations during the pandemic.

"We haven’t seen anything like this in about 30 or 40 years at least," Dr. Vishesh Chhibber, director of transfusion medicine at UMass Memorial Health, told the Boston Globe.

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Nationwide, the Red Cross normally has a five-day supply of all types of blood, said Kelly Isenor, spokesperson for the Red Cross of Massachusetts. Right now, the supply of the sorely needed type O blood would last only a half-day. 

"It’s going out faster than it’s coming in," Isenor said.

According to the Red Cross, approximately 36,000 units of red blood cells are needed every day in the U.S. The organization also said one donation can potentially save up to three lives.

Last year, the COVID-19 pandemic took a toll on the country’s blood supply. Efforts to reduce the spread of the virus have resulted in the closure of many locations where blood drives normally are held, such as schools, health clubs and libraries.

The Red Cross also provides information on how to donate blood. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report. This story was reported from Los Angeles.