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Appeal success but more donors needed

The Blood Donor Centre has thanked those who came forward to give blood since the start of their appeal around World Blood Donor Day.

Since June 14, 75 new donors have attended the centre, while 14 were deferred at the clinic and about 15 more over the phone.

“The increase in new donors has had a tremendous effect because a lot of our donors take holidays over the summer, or they are too busy covering colleagues on vacation,” a spokeswoman said.

“Blood donation has a ripple effect, saving one person's life has vast implications on many others; children, parents, business colleagues, friends, sporting partners.

“Thank you for supporting your community. This is your blood donor centre, here to help your family, friends and fellow residents.”

But the spokeswoman also reiterated the constant need for donors, especially around the holidays.

“We always need to increase our stocks prior to Cup Match. We need more donors for our general blood stock as well as needing more donors for our sickle-cell patients.

“Spread the word, donating blood is usually very easy, doesn't take long but is essential to life and the wellbeing of Bermuda.”

As Bermuda marked World Blood Donor Day, Edward Schultz, King Edward VII Memorial Hospital's chief of emergency medicine, called on the community to give blood.

And BHB consultant haematologist Eyitayo Fakunle stressed the need for young people in particular to donate consistently.

However, there are strict criteria governing blood donations to ensure a safe supply and potential donors are asked questions covering their medical history, lifestyle and travel.

According to the spokeswoman, the majority of those who were deferred since World Blood Donor Day had a tattoo in the past 12 months, or were not eligible because of age or low haemoglobin.

Less than ten were deferred because they lived in the UK during the mad cow epidemic, she said.

BHB relaxed the indefinite ban on gay men donating blood to a one-year deferral period in June. But Dr Fakunle told The Royal Gazette that it would be “unlikely” that restrictions stopping those who lived in the UK between January 1, 1980, and December 31, 1996, or more than five years in Europe since January 1, 1980, from giving blood will be lifted.

He said there was still a “significant” risk of human to human transmission of the infectious agent through blood transfusions and there is not test for it.

“People who have been in the UK during this time period have potentially been exposed to the vCJD (variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease) agent, which is believed to be the same as the agent of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) or mad cow disease,” he explained.

According to Dr Fakunle, 229 people have been affected by vCJD — a rare, fatal and transmissible human brain disease — since 1996, with 177 cases diagnosed in the UK. The number of cases peaked in 2000 and only one case has been reported since 2012. While the disease is linked to eating infected meat, three cases of vCJD being transmitted via blood transfusion have been identified since 2003.

Dr Fakunle said to ensure the “safety of the blood supply”, international organisations decided to defer donors who lived in affected areas between 1980 and 1996.

He added: “The types of blood tests that are used to screen blood cannot be applied to vCJD because of the different type of infectious agent; abnormal prion protein rather than bacteria or virus. With an incubation period that could stretch to decades, it is hard to say that we have seen the end of the outbreak and it's all over.

“If there are people who are carrying the agent of vCJD, it may be years and years before we know exactly what their fate is going to be.

“It is important to note that the UK population generally, other than those born after 1996, has been exposed to the same risks of vCJD as donors alive during that time.

“In Bermuda, our population was not exposed to this risk, so we are more like countries such as the USA and Canada, trying to do our best to minimise potential transmission of the disease from donated blood.”

No letting up: consultant haematologist Eyitayo Fakunle has stressed the need for more young people, in particular, to donate blood consistently

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Published August 15, 2016 at 9:00 am (Updated August 15, 2016 at 2:10 am)

Appeal success but more donors needed

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