BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — The common cold and the flu are sweeping through Kern County and It's now having an impact on the local blood supply.
23ABC spoke with Houchin Community Blood Bank officials who said every year after the holidays is when they see their biggest shortage of donors because most of their regulars are calling out sick from the flu or a cold, "We're seeing a lot of sick outs, we're seeing a lot of people come in with the flu or they are calling in saying they are sick and we can only take healthy donors, so for us that's a real challenge," Galen Kline of the Houchin Community Blood Bank said.
Since November in Kern County alone two people are already dead from the flu and Kern County Public Health Officials said it could stick around depending on the severity, "Flu season is upon us but it can last far into the year you know even into April and May," Michelle Corson of Kern County Public Health said. Which could mean more people will be calling out sick from their blood donation appointments at the Houchin Community Blood Bank and there may be a prolonged shortage in blood supply available.
Houchin Blood Bank officials explained why people with the flu are not qualified to donate until they are symptom free,"So the flu... If you are sick you don't want to donate, you body is already compromised because you are fighting off whatever infection or whatever is going on. So you don't want to give or donate blood because if you get that there is a possible chance you'll give that and pass that along to whoever is receiving it as a patient." That's also why the first question on the Houchin Community Blood Bank pre-donor screening questionnaire is, "Are you feeling healthy today?" for those looking to donate.
However, Klein said the number of sick outs is having a greater impact on the community, "The risks being if something were to happen we won't have enough to supply, we have enough to supply our local hospitals given the need right now but that could change, with one accident can change that, one car accident could change that and that's what we realize and put's all of the pressure back on our team. So we could really use people coming in over the next few days."
Kline said an extra 20 to 30 donors over the next few days will really make the difference and hospitals won't have to wait for donated blood. He also says anyone who is healthy can help if they choose, "Any blood type will be able to help us."
Upon completing the health screening, healthy donors like Dakota Smith of Bakersfield said it doesn't hurt or take a long time but it may benefit someone close to you, "I've had friends that have had cancer and so having platelets and plasma can make a difference, a huge difference for them so this is huge for the community and it's really not a big deal. Yea it's not for everyone but it's worth a try."
If you are under the age of 17 you will need parental consent to donate. However, those who are interested in donating are encouraged to head over to one of the two Houchin Community Blood Bank locations as soon as possible this week.
You can also contact the Houchin Community Blood Bank at (661) 323-4222