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Manatee flu outbreak linked to blood bank shortages

MANATEE -- Local blood banks are reporting critical and dangerous shortages of four blood types due to regular donors battling the flu -- a situation that could cause elective surgeries to be halted at Manatee Memorial Hospital and Lakewood Ranch Medical Center.

"People with the flu can't donate blood because that would compromise the recipient," said Jayne Giroux, director of community development for SunCoast Blood Bank, which provides the blood used for transfusions at Manatee Memorial and Lakewood Ranch Medical.

SunCoast is asking people who are not sick, not even presenting a sniffle, to consider making an emergency donation at their donation centers at 1731 Lakewood Ranch Blvd. or Bayshore Shopping Center, 6026 14th St. W.

"We don't lose lives because of blood shortages," Giroux said. "We can reach out before we get completely empty. But they will cancel elective surgeries, so we have enough for emergencies, traumas and unfore

seen needs."

On the shelf Monday, SunCoast Blood Bank had no pints of AB positive, four pints of B negative, two pints of B positive and 52 pints of O negative, which is the type anyone can receive safely, Giroux said.

"We like to have 14 pints of AB positive, 22 pints of B negative, 35 pints of B positive and 70 pints of O negative," Giroux said.

The current levels are considered less than a one-day supply of the blood types, Giroux added.

A positive and A negative and O positive are blood types in good supply, Giroux said.

One Blood, formerly Florida Blood Services, did not immediately respond to a request for its blood status report.

But an official from Blake Medical Center, which is served by One Blood, said it could always use blood donations.

"For us, blood is always a big need, being a trauma center," said Melissa Morgan, a Blake spokeswoman.

A One Blood bloodmobile will be at Blake from 11 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. Tuesday, Morgan said.

The last time SunCoast's blood supplies were this low was January 2013, almost exactly two years ago, when a similar flu outbreak hit, Giroux said.

There was also a shortage of this proportion in July 2013, due to many people being on vacation.

Every 56 days, healthy people can give blood.

SunCoast's platelet levels are adequate, Giroux said.

For more information on donating at SunCoast, call 1-866-97-Blood.

Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7072 or contact him via Twitter@RichardDymond.

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