updated 1/14/2004 12:41:23 PM ET 2004-01-14T17:41:23

Much of the nation has less than a two-day supply of blood on hand, blood banks said in issuing an urgent appeal for immediate donations.

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Banks try to keep a five- to seven-day supply of blood on hand.

But on Tuesday, the American Red Cross reported having just over 41,000 units of blood available nationwide, less than a two-day supply. Twenty-two of America’s Blood Centers’ 94 banks — mostly in the West and South — had a day’s supply or less on hand.

Already some hospitals, particularly on the West Coast, have postponed elective surgeries because of the shortage, say the two organizations, which together supply most of the nation’s blood.

Donations low in January
January is traditionally a tight month for blood supplies, as donations drop in mid-December and take a while to recover. This January, a harsh flu season and bad weather in parts of the country also are blamed for keeping donations low.

To donate, people must be healthy, be at least 17 years old and weigh at l10 pounds; a health questionnaire filled out at the blood bank will assess other qualifications. Qualified donors can give blood once every 56 days.

For information on donating, contact:

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