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Nation faces shortage of Type O blood

Updated: Jun. 10, 2021 at 11:27 AM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - A critical need for Type O blood donors is sweeping the nation as hospitals use up their supply faster than they can be replenished.

The American Red Cross says donors are needed now, more than ever, due to an emergency need for Type O blood donors. And in Topeka, the need for Type O blood dates as far back as 2004. The Community Blood Center has hosted multiple drives looking for Type O blood since 2006 when elective surgeries needed to be canceled due to the shortage of the blood type. Most recently, the Red Cross held a blood drive in 2020 to urge those with Type O blood to donate.

According to the Red Cross, those with Type O- blood are also known as universal blood donors. It said Type O is usually in short supply since it is also the most common blood type. Around 45% of Caucasians have Type O blood, while 51% of African Americans and 57% of Hispanics are Type O. This means that minority and diverse populations play a crucial role in meeting the constant need for this type of blood.

The Red Cross said Types O- and O+ are in high demand. While only 7% of the population are O-, the need for this type is the highest due to its use in emergencies. It said the need for O+ is also high due to it being the most frequently occurring blood type.

According to the organization, that while O- blood types can donate to any blood type, they can only receive O- blood, and unfortunately, it said this blood type is usually the first to run out during a shortage.

Site Manager at the Community Blood Center Cynthia Kerns said patients put off surgeries and elective treatments because of the pandemic causing usage to go up, but donations are not. Also, a factor is not having high school and college blood drives throughout the past year which usually brings in around 20,000 units of blood.

“If you have the time, have an hour, bring some friends and just make it a family thing or friend thing and give us some blood, some platelets, we need it all,” she said.

Steve Sodergren, a donor Thursday morning, said he continues to give because he feels safe and wants to help save people who need it.

“I would just encourage anybody to get past that and again, you can save a life, in just an hour of time,” he said.

The Red Cross said O+ blood cells are not universally compatible with all types but are compatible with any red blood cells that are positive, including A+, B+, O+ and AB+, which covers about 80% of the population. Those with O+ blood can only receive transfusions from O+ or O- blood.

Those with O- and O+ blood types and who are CMV negative are known as Heroes for Babies, as it is the safest blood for transfusions for immune-deficient newborns.

According to the Red Cross, the latest studies have shown that someone in the U.S. needs a blood transfusion about every two seconds. It said the average person can donate only one pint of blood in a single donation with a shelf life of 42 days, which is why the demand for donors is so great. It said 38% of the US is eligible to donate blood, but only 3% actually donate.

“It’s safe. We’ll do every precaution that we can and we really encourage everybody to come out and give again, or if you’re a new donor, come back in and start giving,” said Kerns.

To schedule a donation with the American Red Cross, click HERE.

The CBC takes donations 7:30 a.m. - 6 p.m daily at their 6220 SW 29th Street location, just west of Wanamaker.

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