As the flu season nears, the American Red Cross will be holding blood drives in the area to keep a strong blood supply in the midst of both the flu and COVID-19.


According to the Red Cross, the flu shot doesn’t affect blood donation eligibility and medical experts are urging people to get the flu shot to avoid a flu epidemic on top of the current COVID-19 pandemic.


"Because blood can only be given by those who are feeling well, a severe flu season could create additional challenges to maintaining a sufficient blood supply for hospital patients in need," Red Cross external communications manager Jan Hale said in a news release. "Get the flu vaccine this year to help protect the nation from the virus but also to ensure that patients continue to have access to lifesaving blood products.


"There is no waiting period to give blood or platelets after receiving a flu shot as long as the donor is symptom-free and fever-free. There is no risk of transmitting the influenza virus after receiving a flu vaccination."


Before giving blood for those who contract the flu, the Red Cross says to wait until you no longer have symptoms and have recovered completely.


Regarding COVID-19, the Red Cross says it is testing blood, platelet and plasma donations for COVID-19 antibodies.


"The test may indicate if the donor’s immune system has produced antibodies to this coronavirus, regardless of whether an individual developed COVID-19 symptoms," said Hale. "Red Cross antibody tests will be helpful to identify individuals who have COVID-19 antibodies and may now help current coronavirus patients in need of convalescent plasma transfusions.


"Convalescent plasma is a type of blood donation collected from COVID-19 survivors that have antibodies that may help patients who are actively fighting the virus."


However, a positive antibody test result does not confirm infection or immunity and the Red Cross is not testing donors to diagnose illness.


"To protect the health and safety of Red Cross staff and donors, it is important that individuals who do not feel well or believe they may be ill with COVID-19 postpone donation," Hale said. "COVID-19 antibody test results will be available within one to two weeks in the Red Cross Blood Donor App or donor portal at RedCrossBlood.org."


Before arriving at the drive, donors are asked to schedule an appointment and are required to wear a face covering or mask while at the drive in alignment with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention public guidance.


The blood drive dates and locations are as follows:


Ford County


Bucklin: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Nov. 4 at Bucklin High School, 422 S. Main St.


Dodge City: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Nov. 12, noon to 6 p.m. Nov. 18 and 7:45 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Nov. 19 at the Dodge City Senior Center, 2408 Central Ave.


Spearville: 2 to 6 p.m. Nov. 19 at St Johns Parish Hall, 100 Main St.


Gray County


Montezuma: 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Oct. 27 at South Gray High School, 101 S. Aztec.


Hodgeman County


Jetmore: noon to 4:45 p.m. Nov. 16 at Hodgeman County 4-H Building, South Atkin.


Kiowa County


Greensburg: 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Nov. 13 at First Baptist Church, 200 W. Kansas.


Meade County


Plains: 3 to 7 p.m. Nov. 2 at Plains Community Center, 812 Grand Ave.


Clark County


Minneola: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Nov. 20 at Community Church-Awana Building, 204 E. Elm.


Stay healthy this flu season and make an appointment to donate blood by downloading the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting RedCrossBlood.org, calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or enabling the Blood Donor Skill on any Alexa Echo device.


To contact the writer, email vmarshall@dodgeglobe.com.