An extreme blood shortage in Southern California has led the American Red Cross to begin a paid advertising campaign for the first time in hopes of increasing donations.
Julie Juliusson, spokeswoman for the American Red Cross Blood Services, Southern California Region, said Sunday that there is just 4% of the desired supply of type O positive blood, 5% of B positive and 8% of O negative. "It's pretty bleak," she said.
The Red Cross opened seven blood centers Sunday, hoping to increase donations.
There is always a post-holiday shortage, Juliusson said, as businesses that hold blood drives slow down their activities during the holidays.
In addition, high schools and colleges, which supply 20% of blood donations during the school year, are on vacation. But the situation is worse than usual all over the country, Juliusson said.
For example, the New York Blood Center has reported its worst shortage ever. As a result, Southern California is not getting the 40% of its supply it usually receives from other regions.
Hospitals had enough blood Friday. But there could be shortages this week, which could force postponement of elective surgeries, she said.
Southern California ranks last in the country in the percentage of adults who donate blood, at 3%, Juliusson said. The national average is 5%.
After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the public donated blood in unprecedented numbers, but less than 10% of first-time donors who came in after the attacks have returned.
"It takes a tragedy for people to give blood," she said.
The Red Cross started last week to run ads in newspapers throughout Southern California and on TV and radio stations in English and Spanish.
Increasing efforts are being made to get donations from Latinos, Juliusson said. Not only do they make up a large portion of the area's population, but most also have type O, which is in short supply.