Flu outbreak fueling nationwide blood donation shortage

This year's severe flu season has another unintended side effect — a blood donation shortage.

The American Red Cross says there is a critical blood shortage across the country. It partly blames so many people being sick and unable to donate as well as the recent winter weather events.

People in North Texas are doing what they can to help, but the flu is keeping many donors away.

Anita Lazare is a first time donor. She was welcomed by the Red Cross at a blood drive at Covenant Church in Carrollton.

"I actually work at a hospital,” she said. “I see people needing transfusions all the time, especially cancer patients. Sometimes, they need it even twice in a day."

Every blood donor counts right now. People sick with the flu has kept many donors away.

"Due to the winter storm season, due to the cold and flu season, there's been a major shortage across the nation,” said Red Cross spokesperson Krystal Smith. “We had to cancel over 550 blood drive just in this month alone."

Regular blood donors like Michael McDaniel are a lifeline. The Red Cross says only about four percent of the people who could donate blood actually do.

“Very important time for the Red Cross hoping this encourages people to make donations,” he said. “It was painless."

Just with the winter weather alone, the Red Cross says it's missed out on well over 16,000 blood donations so far this month.

“To be able to do something, take time out of your day to help somebody else to possibly save their life — that's huge,” Lazare said.

Carter Blood Care is one of the largest blood centers in Texas. It says they need about 1,100 donations a day to keep up with the demand but are only getting about 800.