Lifeblood welcomes first UK 'Mad Cow' blood donors
People who lived in the United Kingdom during the ‘mad cow disease’* outbreak can donate blood in Australia from today, potentially contributing up to 58,000 additional donations each year.
Australian Red Cross Lifeblood Executive Director of Donor Services, Cath Stone, said Lifeblood hoped to welcome around 18,000 additional donors as the change comes into effect.
“It’s taken some time; however, we’re so pleased our comprehensive review of the evidence and our risk modelling has found this rule is no longer required. It means that from today, we’re thrilled to welcome these newly eligible donors to our centres around the nation,” Ms Stone said.
“Our teams are in the process of contacting donors who have previously been unable to donate due to this rule. We’re fortunate to have one of the safest blood supplies in the world, and we’re continuing our focus to make it easier for all Australians to donate, while ensuring our blood supply remains safe for patients”.
Since December 2000, those who had spent a total of six months or more in the UK between 1980 and 1996 were prevented from donating blood.
This was a precautionary measure in response to the UK outbreak of mad cow disease* and concerns about the risk of acquiring human variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (vCJD), a fatal disease with an incubation period of many years and no screening test to identify carriers.
The recommendation by Lifeblood to remove the rule was approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) following an in-depth risk assessment.
Modelling performed by Lifeblood and UNSW Sydney’s Kirby Institute, funded under the NHMRC’s** Partnerships Projects scheme, demonstrated the ability to remove this rule while continuing to ensure that Australia’s blood supply will remain one of the safest in the world.
The Kirby Institute’s Scientia Professor John Kaldor said, "This excellent outcome demonstrates the value of careful risk analyses, to ensure that restrictions on blood donor eligibility achieve the right balance between safety and sufficiency in the blood supply."
*Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE)
**National Health and Medical Research Council