Flu Virus Hurting Blood Donations

Donation numbers down from last year

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Blood donations tend to decrease during the winter months, but the ongoing flu epidemic is making it even more difficult for the Community Blood Bank to get the donations they need.

The blood bank usually sees a five to 10 percent decrease in donations during peak flu season, but this year it’s almost double that at 15 to 20 percent.

“It’s been a bad flu season going around,” said Dr. Mark List, Avera Physician.

It’s been a busy winter so far for Dr. List.

“We’ve been seeing a lot of Influenza ‘A’, h3n2 going around in Sioux Falls right now,” said List.

While clinics and hospitals across the state try to keep up with flu patients, others are hoping for an increase in traffic.

“We have been hit a little bit harder this year,” said Ken Versteeg, Exec. Dir. Community Blood Bank.

Versteeg says the flu epidemic has slowed things down for the blood bank by preventing those with the virus from donating.

“Many people have the cold and flu and they’re just not able to donate because that virus is in their bloodstream. We don’t want to risk the chance of transfusion with a patient,” said Versteeg.

Versteeg says their blood reserves are about 20 percent lower than where they’d like them to be, which could be a problem in emergency situations.

“We have an adequate blood supply, we’d just like to see us at full stock levels,” said Versteeg.

Although blood donations are greatly needed this time of year, if you’re not feeling 100 percent or if you are showing any flu-like symptoms, it’s best to just wait to donate until you’re feeling better.

“If you have influenza you want to avoid exposing other people, especially in a healthcare environment. You want to avoid exposing those who are at risk,” said List.

Dr. List says it’s not common to see the flu virus spread through blood, but it is possible.

“That’s why if you have influenza the blood bank is probably going to turn you away,” said List.

Once the virus is gone, willing donors are encouraged to make a trip to the community blood bank.

“We’d love to have people come into the donor rooms and help support the blood supply during the difficult times of the year,” said Versteeg.

The Community Blood Bank has locations at both Sanford and Avera hospitals in Sioux Falls. You can find more information about donating by visiting their website, bblifeblood.org.