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Decades-old rules on blood donations and mad cow disease could soon change

Blood donations (File photograph)

Rules governing who can donate blood on the island could soon change as international standards shift.

While restrictions have been in place to block those who were in Britain during outbreaks of variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, commonly known as mad cow disease, internationally those restrictions have begun to loosen.

Eyitayo Fakunle, consultant haematologist with the Bermuda Hospitals Board, said: “The FDA just last month advised that they believe the criteria relating to vCJD can be relaxed further based on the latest data.

“This is very new even in the US and Canada has yet to communicate any update in their standards.

“We certainly are following this very closely and if Canada also make a similar decision we will be able to review our criteria as well.”

The BHB revealed last week that the number of blood transfusions on the island has grown faster than the number of blood donors.

There were nearly 2,000 blood transfusions last year compared with 1,590 in 2017 — a 26 per cent increase.

However, the number of blood donors had risen from 1,002 to 1,081 — an 8 per cent increase — during the same period.

Despite the need for donors, a range of restrictions remain in place to limit who is able to donate blood.

Under existing restrictions, those who have spent three months or more in Britain between January 1980 and December 1996 or five years in France between January 1980 and December 2001 are not eligible to donate blood.

However, Dr Fakunle said that some other restrictions have recently been reduced to allow those who have received tattoos or men who have engaged in sex with men to donate blood after three months instead of six.

“Blood donation criteria are regularly reviewed and updated,” he said. “This may be because testing has improved, or risks are reassessed based on the latest research and data.

“We follow both the US and Canada as we are accredited by bodies in both countries, which means they regularly test our safety standards.

“We can only change a criteria when both bodies agree, as it is important to us to maintain our accreditation with both bodies to make sure we are working to the highest standards, and provide comfort to the community that their blood transfusion service is safe.”

In an effort to support blood donation, the Hamilton Princess & Beach Club announced last week that for the second year those who have donated blood in the past year will be entered into a raffle for prizes including a stay at the hotel and a champagne brunch.

The hotel will also sponsor online advertisements to help to encourage donors to come forward while participating in the annual corporate blood drive competition to encourage its own staff to donate.

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Published June 16, 2022 at 7:54 am (Updated June 16, 2022 at 7:48 am)

Decades-old rules on blood donations and mad cow disease could soon change

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