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For the first time in three years, the months of May and June have seen an abnormal shortage of blood supplies in the United States. And hospitals in Utah are gearing up for a long, "dry" summer.

According to a statement released by the American Association of Blood Banks, "The entire nation is facing a critical shortage of red blood cells at the present time. There has been a shortage of blood in the United States during the months of May and June."In Utah we are not only facing the July 4 holiday, but we also have the July 24 holiday coming up," said Dave Swalberg, technical director of IHC Blood Services at LDS Hospital, Salt Lake City, "and with those holidays you'll have an increase of people in the state, on the roads, in the mountains, and basically out and about. All it would take is one very serious traffic accident and we could be facing a critical shortage in our blood supply."

Summertime activities may be the number one reason for the shortage, but according to Gregory Critchfield, medical director of the Utah Valley Regional Medical Center Blood Bank, a second reason is, ironically, Operation Desert Storm.

During the Persian Gulf war many first-time donors gave and are unaware that blood is necessary year-round.

In order to help build blood supplies, McKay Dee Hospital in Ogden, LDS Hospital and Cottonwood Hospital in Salt Lake City, and Utah Valley Regional Medical Center in Provo, Logan Regional Medical Center and Dixie Regional Medical Center in St. George, will be extending hours and increasing staff in the coming days to deal with the influx of expected donors.

Also, LDS, Utah Valley and Cottonwood will be open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday for donors.

"This year will be the most severe shortage ever," said Karen Tribett, Donor Resource Coordinator at UVRMC. "In the 10 years I've worked here (Utah Valley) in blood services, I haven't experienced such a shortage of blood as we're having now," Tribett said. "Many people have a tendency to defer themselves before finding out the eligibility requirements for donating blood. Many medications are acceptable when donating. I would hope people would take the time to call us with their questions."

According to Clark H. Caras, media relations spokesman for Salt Lake Valley IHC hospitals, there is a need for 1,000 or more donors to give blood in Utah before the July Fourth holidays.

All blood types are welcome, but donations of O positive and O negative blood are especially needed.