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Canadian Blood Services Updates Donor Eligibility Criteria Related to ‘Mad Cow’ Disease Outbreak

 Canadian Blood Services has updated their eligibility criteria and are excited to welcome more new donors who wish to make all the difference for patients across Canada.  
If you’ve lived or spent time in the United Kingdom, Republic of Ireland or France during the ‘mad cow disease’ outbreak of the 1980s and 1990s, you may now be eligible to donate blood, plasma and platelets in Canada.

You may now be eligible to donate blood, plasma or platelets if you…

  • spent a cumulative total of five years or more in France and/or Republic of Ireland between January 1, 1980, and December 31, 2001, or received a transfusion in these countries,
  • spent a cumulative total of three months or more in the United Kingdom (UK) between January 1, 1980, and December 31, 1996, or received a transfusion in the UK.

This change also aligns with the change that were made in 2022, which changed the eligibility related to vCJD for those who have lived in Saudi Arabia and/or Western Europe.

What was the ban and what was the reason? Well, in the late 1990s, blood operators around the world changed donor eligibility criteria for those who lived or spent time in the UK, Republic of Ireland and France as a precautionary measure during the ‘mad cow’ outbreak. At the time, it was difficult to assess the extent of the outbreak, and the likelihood that the disease could be transmitted by blood, platelet or plasma transfusion.

Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (vCJD), commonly referred to as the human variant of ‘mad cow’ disease, is a very rare, fatal disease that was discovered in the mid-90s after the ‘mad cow’ outbreak that affected cattle in the UK. Eating beef contaminated with ‘mad cow’ is the main cause of vCJD.

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