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Red Cross issues alert over dangerously low blood stocks

09:03 22/11/2023

The Belgian Red Cross is warning that blood stocks for negative groups O, A, and B are critical, saying that those supplies have been under extreme pressure.

“Since the start of the Covid pandemic, blood collections have been on a rollercoaster - they rise, then fall, then rise again, and so on,” said Thomas Paulus, head of communications for the Red Cross blood service.

Only half of hospital requests for negative blood groups are being met, the Red Cross reports, with demand only expected to increase in the remaining months of the year when, due to holidays, blood drives and donations are less frequent.

The Red Cross is therefore launching an urgent appeal to people with a negative blood group who meet the donation criteria to go to one of the collection centres and donate blood.

Donations of O-negative blood are especially sought after, as this blood type is used in emergency situations by hospitals when the patient's blood group is not yet known or when the corresponding blood type is not available.

Although just 6 to 7% of the general population have O-negative blood, this group accounts for 11 to 12% of transfusion needs, which is why people with that blood type are considered "universal donors".

“At present, no synthetic medicine or treatment can replace human blood,” the Red Cross said on its website. “Blood is therefore an irreplaceable product.”

According to the Red Cross, 500,000 blood bags are needed every year for people in hospitals who are ill or have had an accident and need blood to survive.

“In 30 minutes, you can save three lives,” the Red Cross said, indicating the time it takes to donate blood and the effect such a donation has.

Written by Helen Lyons