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IBTS introduces deferral of donors who have resided in the UK to minimise risk of vCJD

Date Posted: 2001-03-14 10:05:18 The Irish Blood Transfusion Service (IBTS) is to defer donors who have lived for a substantial period of time in the UK between 1980 – 1996 from giving blood. This is an effort to minimise any possible risk of transmitting vCJD by blood transfusion.

The new deferral policy, will commence on the 31st March 2001 for those who have lived in the UK for five years or more between 1st January 1980 and 31st December 1996. We plan to extend the deferral policy to include people who have lived in the UK for one year or more during the relevant years from September 2001. It is estimated that the new policy will result in a total loss of 12% of donors or approximately 20,000 donations per year: the largest percentage loss of any country, which has introduced a similar type of ban. In order to avoid acute shortages of blood, a number of strategies will be put in place.

The IBTS has a policy of taking whatever steps are available to reduce any risk to the blood supply that might emerge. There is no blood test available to detect vCJD. While no conclusive evidence exists to indicate that vCJD can be spread by blood transfusion, the possibility cannot be excluded. This action is being taken as a precautionary measure to make our blood products as safe as possible.

To date, 95 cases of vCJD have been recorded in the UK. These cases have been linked to the eating of infected bovine meat products during the period 1980 to 1996. On this basis, it is assumed that donors who have lived for a period of time in the UK in these years comprise a defined risk group for vCJD and therefore might be at greater risk of transmitting the disease by blood transfusion. The new deferral policy will reduce the risk exposure of transmitting vCJD by blood, in Ireland, by up to 90%.

National Blood Centre, James's Street, Dublin 8.       Tel: 00 353 1 4322800       Fax: 00 353 1 4322930