Red Cross Blood Supply at Emergency Levels

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The Red Cross recently announced that its blood supply has reached emergency levels [1]. Donations are down more than 10% across the country, resulting in 50,000 fewer pints of blood than expected last month.

Red Cross: Emergency need for blood

The deficit leaves about half the readily available blood products on hand today than at this time in 2011. Every two seconds, someone in the U.S. needs a blood transfusion. The organization is calling on all eligible donors to donate blood or platelets as soon as possible.

Dr. Richard Benjamin, chief medical officer for the American Red Cross, said in a statement [1]:

There is always the chance that a physician could postpone an elective surgery if the needed blood products aren’t readily available. In a worst case scenario, a physician may have to forego performing a more serious procedure for a patient because of a shortage of blood. We need to do everything we can to make sure it doesn’t get to that point.

The Red Cross is especially in need of O positive, O negative, B negative and A negative in order to meet patient demand this summer.

What’s your blood type?

There are four groups of human blood: A, B, AB and O. Each letter refers to the type of antigen (meaning a substance to which the immune system can respond) on the surface of a person’s red blood cells. Red blood cell antigens determine your blood group. Blood group antigens are either sugars or proteins, and they are attached to various components in the membrane of red blood cells [2].

Each blood group is also classified by its Rhesus (Rh) factor, another type of antigen found on red blood cells. Blood is either Rh positive (Rh+) or Rh negative (Rh-). Thus, there are eight blood types [3]:

Blood type Americans with this type Compatible blood type(s)
O+ 37.4% O+, A+, B+, AB+
O– 6.6% All blood types
A+ 35.7% A+, AB+
A– 6.3% A+, A–, AB+, AB–
B+ 8.5% B+, AB+
B– 1.5% B+, B–, AB+, AB–
AB+ 3.4% AB+
AB– 0.6% AB+, AB–

Donate and save a life

Every day, the Red Cross must collect more than 17,000 pints of blood for patients at more than 3,000 hospitals and transfusion centers across the country. Each pint of whole blood can help save more than one life. To make an appointment to donate, simply call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or visit


  1. Red Cross Blood Supply Drops to Emergency Levels. American Red Cross. 2012 Jun 25.
  2. Laura Dean. Blood groups and Red Cell Antigens. National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892-6510.
  3. Blood Types in the U.S. Stanford University School of Medicine Blood Center. Accessed 2012 Jul 11.
About the Author

Walter Jessen is a senior writer for Highlight HEALTH Media.