Starting December 4, thousands of people suffering from diabetes or who may have been exposed to a variant of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease will be eligible to donate blood products.
Héma-Québec announced Wednesday that it has obtained authorization from Health Canada to remove from its list of exclusion criteria for donating blood products people who may have been exposed to Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, commonly known as mad cow.
Héma-Québec recalled that for many years, like several blood establishments around the world, it prohibited the donation of blood to people who traveled or lived during the 1980s and 1990s in certain countries, notably the France and the United Kingdom.
This ban was intended to prevent the transmission of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease by transfusion. Héma-Québec therefore had to refuse thousands of potential donors.
A vice-president of Héma-Québec, Dr Marc Germain explained that after several years without new cases, statistical estimates demonstrate a virtually zero risk of a new transmission event. He said that experts now believe that it is safe to no longer apply this ban.
A little later on Wednesday, Health Canada confirmed that the removal of this constraint would apply everywhere in Canada as of December 4.
The medical advisor of the Canadian Blood Services, Dr.r Aditi Khandelwal, assured that the lifting of the ban will have no impact on the safety of the blood supply.
“By removing this criterion, we are not compromising the safety of our blood reserves,” he maintained. But this will allow us to offer the possibility to many people to donate blood, including people who were recently refused for this reason,” explained Dr.r Khandelwal.
Since 2003, an estimated 70,000 people have been unable to donate blood in Canada because they had stayed in the United Kingdom, Ireland or France, according to the vice-president of public affairs at Canadian Blood Services, Ron Vezina.
About 7,500 people have been turned away in the last five years, but since they are still in the organization’s database, they could be contacted soon to find out if they are still interested in donating blood.
The United States and Australia withdrew similar restrictions last year.
Furthermore, Héma-Québec will also modify its criterion concerning diabetes, which will allow more people suffering from this disease to donate blood products. This change will also come into force on December 4.