WIGANERS are being urged to give blood after the winter sickness bug has left stocks at dangerously low levels.
The NHS has made an urgent appeal for ‘O Negative’ blood donors after the norovirus outbreak and the festive period caused a drop in donations.
Wigan and the North West has been particularly hard hit by the bug, with one in ten workers calling in sick in the first week in January due to the outbreak.
The National Blood Service said it had increased stocks of the blood type before Christmas but high demand meant it was running low.
Nationally, more than one million people are believed to have been affected by the vomiting bug outbreak, which led several hospitals to close their doors before Christmas in a bid to contain its spread.
An NBS spokesman said: “Blood stocks can often dip around holiday time as people get distracted and can’t always attend their sessions. In addition, the recent outbreak of norovirus has led to a dramatic increase in the number of people correctly cancelling their appointments. Non-attendance by O Negative donors increased by 50 per cent just before New Year.”
Donors with O Negative blood make up around seven per cent of the population and are known as the “universal donor” as their blood can safely be given to patients with a different blood group. This can prove vital in an emergency situation where there may not be time for an immediate blood group testing to be carried out.
Last month the Astley and Aspull wards at Wigan Infirmary were closed to visitors following an outbreak of the bug which can be fatal for vulnerable patients.
Lynda Barkess-Jones, acting director of infection prevention and control, said: “ Our hospitals are looking after people who are unwell and may have reduced immunity. They are more susceptible to catching Norovirus.”
She added: “Anyone who has been feeling unwell recently with symptoms of diarrhoea, nausea or vomiting, it is advised that they should stay away from our hospitals until they have been free of symptoms for at least 72 hours. If you have been in contact with someone who has had symptoms you could also be bringing the virus into one of our hospitals.
“If visiting, please use the gel stations or hand wash stations available on every ward.”
To find your nearest blood donation session and book an appointment call 0300 123 23 23 or visit www.blood.co.uk
Anyone aged between 17 and 65, weighing more than 50kg (7st 12lbs) and in general good health could potentially start saving lives by becoming a blood donor.