LEWISTON — The American Red Cross has fewer than three days worth of type O blood on hand nationwide, a shortage it calls “critical.”

An American Red Cross blood drive held in 2010 in Portland. Portland Press Herald file photo

The Red Cross is seeking all donors, but it particularly needs those with type O blood.

“This time of year is always difficult for keeping blood on the shelves,” Red Cross spokeswoman Mary Brant said. “It begins with the holidays, and the weather always compounds the problem.”

Brant could not say how bad the shortage is in Maine. But during the weeks of Christmas Day and New Year’s Day, she said, 500 fewer blood drives were hosted by volunteer sponsor groups nationwide and the Red Cross collected about 7,000 fewer blood and platelet donations than it needed.

Blood is perishable, making it difficult to stock ahead of donation downtimes. Platelets have a shelf life of five days, red blood cells 42 days and plasma can be frozen for up to a year, Brant said.

The Red Cross needs to collect 13,000 units of blood to maintain an adequate supply for the hospitals it serves. It typically strives for a five-day supply.

It has fewer than three days for type O.

Type O blood is particularly important to hospitals because O-positive is the blood type most often transfused and O-negative is an uncommon blood type that can be used universally, regardless of the recipient’s type.

The Red Cross serves most hospitals in Maine, except for those with Northern Light Health.

In Auburn, the Twin Cities Red Cross Blood Donation Center takes donations at 245 Center St. Blood drives are also scheduled throughout the region. For more information on blood drive locations, dates and times, call 1-800-RED-CROSS or visit RedCrossBlood.org.


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