"The flu has definitely had an impact this month, and we've had a difficult time collecting blood all across the region," said Cheryl Klueppel, donor recruitment account manager for the American Red Cross's Missouri-Illinois Blood Services Region.
The main effect of the lack of donors is the current supply of O negative blood -- which can be given to any patient -- and platelets is low.
"This is really a concern. At this point the O negative supply is less than a day supply, whereas normally we like to have a three- to five-day supply," Klueppel explained. "And platelets constantly have to be replaced because they have a shelf life of five days."
Donors must be in generally good health and have to be feeling well in order to donate, Klueppel said. Even if they just have a cold or any flu-like symptoms, they're not able to donate, she said.
"If they're taking antibiotics, they have to finish the last dose by that morning to be able to donate later that day," Klueppel said.
The Red Cross is asking any donor who has an appointment but isn't feeling well to find someone to come in and donate for them, then once they are feeling better to call and reschedule an appointment.
Just as the Red Cross is hoping to rebuild its blood supply, several residents and medical professionals in the area are anticipating the end of the flu season.
"I'm hoping we're in our peak and coming out of it," said Judy Johnson, emergency room manager at Missouri Delta Medical Center in Sikeston. "We've been busy the last two weeks and I hope this is the last week."
This year the staff at Missouri Delta are seeing some people who have gastritis, or vomiting and diarrhea, while others are having elevated fevers, coughs and runny noses.
Johnson said she isn't sure how many confirmed flu cases the hospital's ER and Express Care have experienced because many cases have been head colds, sinusitis and bronchitis.
Symptoms for gastritis typically last three to four days and bronchitis and sinusitis may last a week or two or longer, Johnson noted.
Schools and day cares are also reeling from the flu and other illnesses.
Many of the children and teachers at Cathy's Day Care have experienced the "stuffy" head, headaches, cold, chills and runny noses, particularly over the past couple of weeks, said Ramona Looney, a preschool teacher at the day care.
"It just seems to hang and hang on," Looney said about the illnesses.
Kelso C-7 School in New Hamburg and Kelly School District in Benton closed Friday due to flu cases and were already out Monday for Presidents Day. Today marked the first day back for the schools.
"It's hard to tell right now where we're at on attendance," Kelly Superintendent Don Moore said early today. "The teachers are better, I know that."
Moore said the district's peak day came last Tuesday when 22 percent of its 700 elementary and middle school students were absent due to illness. "The principals were even having a tough time getting substitutes," Moore said.
While there were some confirmed flu cases, many of the illnesses weren't, and symptoms included high fever, upset stomach and vomiting, Moore said.
Nikki Vaught, nurse coordinator for the Sikeston R-6 School District, said the flu hasn't really affected the district's students this year.
At New Madrid County R-1, attendance did drop The latter part of last week attendance dropped off two percent at New Madrid County R-1, school officials said.
"We've been lucky so far and hope we don't get it," said East Prairie R-2 Superintendent Scott Downing. "I think we've had some bouts with it, but nothing to close school for."
Meanwhile the Red Cross will just wait out the illnesses like the rest of them, Klueppel said.
She said: "Hopefully, even donors who donate once a year may be encouraged to step up to the plate."
Sikeston High School is hosting a blood drive from 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Feb. 28. In preparing to give blood, donors are asked to drink plenty of fluids, eat that day, especially foods rich in iron. Those who have questions about eligibility to donate should call 1-800-GIVE LIFE.