Variant creutzfeldt-jakob disease (vCJD)

When to suspect vCJD

Patients can present with fatigue, weight loss, headache, unsteadiness, involuntary movements and deficits in higher cortical function.

Usual causes

It’s linked with exposure to Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) also known as ‘Mad Cow Disease’ and is transmitted to humans after the consumption of meat from infected cows.

As a precaution, previously people who had spent a cumulative period of 6 months in the UK between 1 January 1980 and 31 December 1996 were not accepted as blood donors in Australia.

Lifeblood’s medical experts worked with the University of New South Wales’ Kirby Institute to research the risk of vCJD in Australia’s blood donor population, which showed it was time to change the rule. We then made a submission to the Therapeutic Goods Association (TGA) proposing a change to the wait times for people unable to donate blood due to living or visiting the UK during the vCJD risk period. It was approved and the change was implemented on 25 July 2022.

Since that time, a further submission has been made to the TGA to also allow people who have had a transfusion in the UK between 1 January 1980 and the present time to give blood. This was approved and the change implemented on 13 November 2023.


There are currently no routine available tests to predict or prevent vCJD from transmission by transfusion.
Clinically assess patients for neurodegenerative signs and symptoms.
Immediately consult with experts.

What to do

Seek expert advice and notify Lifeblood.