Utah blood supply precariously low

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    By JULIA SMITH

    The Utah Blood Services Division of the American Red Cross has issued a cry for help. Utah’s blood supply, officials say, are at a precariously low level from the summer months of scarce donor participation.

    “We’re not critical,” said Annie Strupp, medical director for Utah Blood Services. “But it wouldn’t take much more for us to be in a more desperate situation.”

    Although Utah has never run out of blood, the current “tight blood supply” could create a problem if a sudden need for it arose in the over the Labor Day Weekend.

    So, the Red Cross is asking for blood donors to come forward before the holiday.

    Low donor participation is fairly common, said Utah Blood Services communications specialist Judy Christensen, over the summer months. “People are busy or on vacation, and they don’t have time to come in.”

    Normally, blood banks count on getting as much blood in as it sends out, Christensen said. On average, she said, the Red Cross collects and uses 350 pints every business day.

    But during the summer, blood banks typically drop below their average collection and end up dispensing more than they receive.

    And, although the Utah Blood Services has experienced low summer months before, Strupp believes this summer is worse than the previous years because of a new restriction announced in August by the Food and Drug Administration, which regulates the blood supply.

    “We had to start excluding (donors) who had lived in or had visited Great Britain for a cumulative of six months between 1980-1996 because of possible mad cow disease contamination,” Strupp said.

    After the announcement, Strupp said, the number of donors decreased sharply from already low numbers, which she believes is a result of the high number of people in Utah who have lived in Great Britain.

    “There was an article in some paper that said missionaries can’t donate,” Strupp said. “It’s just a very select group of people.”

    As it stands, Christensen said the blood bank simply needs more donors to come in before the weekend commences because of the higher likelihood of accidents.

    If Utah did run out of blood, surgeries would be postponed and emergency patients would be in dire need, waiting for a shipment of blood from Red Cross organizations in other states, said Christensen.

    “We just don’t want to get in that situation,” she said. “We want to encourage people to come so that doesn’t turn into a real situation.”

    To find out where donors are accepted near you, call the American Red Cross at 1(800) GIVE-LIFE.

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