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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- The flu is being blamed for a drop in blood donations, which already traditionally suffer a decline during the holiday season.
People with the flu shouldn't give blood until they are symptom-free. In fact, anyone who has had a fever must wait three days after it subsides to donate.
Associated Regional and University Pathologist Inc. (ARUP) in Salt Lake City is especially feeling the pinch.
Donations to ARUP Blood Services, which supplies blood to University of Utah Hospitals & Clinics, Primary Children's Medical Center, Shriners Hospital for Children and the Huntsman Cancer Institute, are noticeably down from last year, said spokeswoman Lisa Kalantzes.
The period from Dec. 23 to Jan. 14 is typically the most difficult time of the year to find donors because people are busy shopping, entertaining and traveling.
This season's early flu cases have made it even more trying. As of Friday, 4,353 laboratory-identified influenza cases were reported in 21 counties, according to the Utah Department of Health. Of those cases, 151 patients were hospitalized and four people died. One death was a pediatric patient and the remaining deaths were reported in adults.
The American Red Cross Blood Services Utah division also believes the flu is contributing to decreased donations.
"We have seen some impact," said spokeswoman Judy Christensen. "We know people aren't coming in because they're sick, and people are busy during the holidays. We have to work harder to make sure we don't get into a blood shortage situation. Right now our supplies are holding steady."
The Utah division supplies blood to 40 hospitals around the state.
"We know you're busy and enjoying the holidays, but it only takes an hour of your time to give a pint of your blood to help save up to three lives," Christensen said. "We think it's worth the investment."
(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)