UK blood donation rules has changed

The Bermuda Blood Donor Centre is happy to announce that people who spent time in the UK, France and certain other countries between 1980 and 1996 will now be able to donate.

The change comes after research indicated there were negligible risks of transmission through blood donation. The US and Australia ended a similar criteria last year, and Ireland changed in 2019.

This blood donor criteria was initially imposed in 2000. It stopped people donating if they had spent certain amounts of time in the UK and other European countries. This was due to concerns about a potential of exposure to meat from cows with Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy. There is evidence that this can cause variant Creutzfeld-Jakob disease (vCJD) in humans.

“We are following similar decisions made in the US, Australia and Ireland in changing our criteria to accept donors who have spent time in the UK and Europe,” Dr Eyitayo Fakunle, Consultant Haematologist and clinical lead for the Bermuda Blood Donor Centre.

“Our primary concern is always blood safety. Research shows that the risk to patients is negligible from receiving blood products from people who spent time in Europe between 1980 and 1996 and this has been supported by real-world evidence.”

Since it first emerged in 1996, vCJD has affected about 232 people in the world, 178 of whom were in Britain*. Cases in the UK have been declining since 2003, with two cases over the last ten years in 2013 and 2016. There have never been any cases in Bermuda.

“When cases in the UK peaked around 2000, it was unknown how widespread vCJD was, what the incubation period might be, and what the risks were for transmission via blood transfusion,” explained Dr Fakunle. “The ban was implemented in 2000 out of an abundance of caution because there was no test for the disease, and the risks were not known. We appreciate it has been frustrating for people impacted by the criteria, but we are also sure they understand how the many unknowns at the time meant we had to be cautious.”

Dr Fakunle stressed: “The safety of our blood is always our first consideration. Following extensive published research, we are now confident that we can change this criteria safely. This change has also gone through a thorough approval process in Bermuda. On behalf of the whole Bermuda Blood Donor Team, we all look forward to welcoming donors back.”

People who wish to donate can book an appointment by calling 236-5067 or WhatsApp 533—9553.

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