VALDOSTA -- The inventory for blood is so low that the American Red Cross has issued an emergency appeal for blood donors in the Southern region, Rebecca Barnes, donor recruitment representative, said.

"We declared an emergency blood appeal on Sunday," Barnes said. "Our inventory is so low that if we don't get the blood, it means loss of life can occur."

There are a number of reasons why the blood supply is low. Plasma was withdrawn from hospitals as well as from Red Cross supplies across the state during the West Nile mosquito season, according to Red Cross officials.

In addition, every January and July the Red Cross always gets in trouble, Barnes said. January is at the end of the holiday season, and July is when high schools, colleges and universities are out. "High schools and universities supply about 15 percent of all the blood we collect in Georgia," Barnes said.

The weather, especially in the Northern part of the state in the winter, diminishes the amount of blood collected. Also, people get sick with the flu and are unable to donate while they are on antibiotics, Barnes said.

Monday, the American Red Cross contacted media outlets to inform the community of the critical blood shortage.

The goal is 20 units per day for the Lowndes County blood donor center, but only 18 units were collected on Monday, Barnes said. To help the blood donor center reach its goal, the hours for donating blood have been extended. The center will also open on Saturday, she said.

The Red Cross needs to collect 6,000 units of blood a week for Georgia, but the last two weeks only about half that amount was collected. Georgia also collects blood units from other regions and the last fiscal year lasting from July to June, 49,000 units were brought in outside the region, Barnes said.

Valdosta is also the headquarters for 34 counties, known as the Southern Heartland District. Valdosta and Albany are the only two fixed blood donor sites in the district. Half the blood collected is from mobile drives that go to industries, schools and churches.

Barnes said that the American Red Cross is working with elementary schools targeting the faculty and staff, and parents of elementary school children for blood drives. The children see their teachers and parents donating blood, and it teaches them the importance of giving blood.

Moulton-Branch Elementary School is one such school in Valdosta that's been involved with blood drives for the past two years. Every blood drive there has been successful, Barnes said.

Georgia is behind in donating blood when it's compared to the national level. Three percent of eligible Georgians give blood as compared to the national level of 5 percent, Barnes said.



To contact reporter Rip Prine, please call 244-3400, ext. 237.



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