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Red Cross urging people to give blood amid coronavirus concerns

The cold and flu season is already challenging the country's blood supply, and as the number of COVID-19 cases grows in the U.S, the shortage could get worse.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The American Red Cross is urging anyone who is eligible to give blood in the midst of the growing coronavirus cases in order to prevent shortages. 

"The only blood that patients in the hospitals receive is through a voluntary donation," account manager and donor recruiter, Pam Greer-Ullrich with River Valley Region's American Red Cross said. 

The cold and flu season is already challenging the country's blood supply.

"Patients who are in accidents, who have burns, who are ill with cancer and other diseases that require a blood transfusion continue to still need that blood," Greer-Ullrich said. 

According to Greer-Ullrich, there's been over 50 blood drives organized by hosts that have been cancelled in the United States. Organizers expect to see that number grow in the midst of the coronavirus scare. 

"As donors enter a blood drive area we're asking them to use hand sanitizer, but we continue to use our protocols for wiping down donor-touched areas," Greer-Ullrich said. 

The Red Cross is closely working with health officials to monitor the outbreak, but nevertheless, the need continues.

"When you donate a unit of blood, that unit of blood has the potential to save up to three lives," Greer-Ullrich said. 

According to The Red Cross there is no evidence that COVID-19 can be transmitted by blood transfusion. 

"Donors should not be afraid to donate blood or receive blood – it is a safe process," Greer-Ullrich said. 

The Red Cross said there are no reported cases of transmissions for any respiratory virus including the coronavirus, but out of an abundance of caution, the organization is asking eligible individuals to hold off on donating for 28 days if: 

  • They traveled to China, and its special administrative regions, Hong Kong and Macau, as well as Iran, Italy and South Korea. 
  • They were diagnosed with COVID-19.
  • They were in contact with a person diagnosed of COVID-19 or in contact with a person suspected to have it.

"We supply 40 percent of the blood across the country and it's vital that we continue to supply the blood to the hospitals so that patients continue to receive the care they need," Greer-Ullrich said.

Contact reporter Senait Gebregiorgis at SGebregior@whas11.com and follow her on Twitter and Facebook.  

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