The Blood Service currently can’t take blood donations from people who lived in the UK for six months or more from 1980–1996.
This is related to the fatal variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD, the human form of the bovine condition sometimes known as ‘mad cow disease’):
- Although the number of cases of vCJD in UK is declining, we still don’t know the full extent of the exposure during this period.
- There is currently no screening blood test available for vCJD.
- vCJD can incubate in someone for decades before they start to show symptoms.
- This terrible brain disease is incurable and usually fatal.
Please note that vCJD is different to classical Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.
Why does Australia have this rule? I was able to donate blood in the UK.
The UK’s National Blood Service doesn’t have this particular rule because if they stopped everyone who was a resident during this time from donating blood, there would be dangerously few people left in the UK who could donate. The lack of donated blood would be more dangerous for patients there than the chance of contracting vCJD.
The Australian Blood Service is fortunate to have the option to use this safety measure. Many other blood services, including the USA, Canada, New Zealand and Singapore, have similar restrictions on UK donors.
When will this change?
We’re monitoring progress of the development of a vCJD screening test. If one is developed and we’re able to change this policy, we’ll gladly do so and make this information public.
We understand not being able to donate blood may be disappointing, but there are other ways you can help.