Restrictions In Place Due To Mad Cow Disease Lifted
The US Food and Drug Administration has repealed a number of regulations that previously placed a blanket ban on blood donation from particular populations due to fears of Mad Cow Disease.
A rare but incurable and terminal neurodegenerative disease found most often in cattle, Mad Cow Disease saw several outbreaks in Europe towards the end of the 20th century. And when the first case in humans was confirmed in 1996, due to eating contaminated meat, the FDA began taking steps to protect patients and consumers.
This included barring blood donation from people who lived and ate in areas that experienced outbreaks of Mad Cow Disease, for fear of transmission of the disease, known in humans as Creutzfeld-Jakob Disease, via blood transfusions.
People barred from donating blood included:
- Anyone who spent time in the United Kingdom from 1980 to 1996.
- Anyone who spent time in France & Ireland from 1980 to 2001.
- Anyone who received a blood transfusion in the United Kingdom, France or Ireland from 1980 to present.
But after decades of research and observation, the FDA determined that the risk of spreading Mad Cow Disease through blood donation “remains theoretical.” And this past June, 2022, the FDA finally repealed all three restrictions.
Donate Blood This Week!
SunCoast Blood Centers will be at SMH – Sarasota this week, Wednesday through Friday (Aug. 24-26), collecting blood donations for patients in need!
Give blood and give the gift of life!
Learn more and keep track of upcoming blood drives at smh.com/giveblood.
What Does This Mean For Blood Donation?
“Quite a bit,” says Robert Harper, Chief Compliance Officer for SunCoast Blood Centers, a Sarasota-based nonprofit operating blood donation centers and organizing blood drives in the region, with an active donor base of about 40,000.
By Harper’s estimation, nearly 5% of SunCoast Blood Centers’ prospective blood donors had to be turned away under the old regulations. That amounts to somewhere around 1,200 people who wanted to donate blood, but could not. “And those are just the ones in our database, who were deferred by the system,” he says.
With their information on record, SunCoast can now reach out to give them the good news—and invite them in to make a donation. “They’ve been ecstatic,” says Harper. “They’re so glad that they’re able to donate and we’ve seen a lot of those donors come in.”
But Harper does not doubt that many people knew they were ineligible to give blood under the old regulations and so never made the attempt to donate. This means they were never entered in SunCoast’s system and the nonprofit has no way to reach them and let them know they are now eligible.
“Now we just have to get the word out,” Harper says.
Learn How To Donate
Looking to become a blood donor? These resources can help.
If you’re in the Suncoast area, SunCoast Blood Centers can point you towards the nearest blood bank or blood drive.
For a broader search for blood donation sites across the nation, the American Red Cross has plenty of tools on this website.
Written by Sarasota Memorial copywriter Philip Lederer, MA, who crafts a variety of external communications for the healthcare system. SMH’s in-house wordsmith, Lederer earned his Master’s degree in Public Administration and Political Philosophy from Morehead State University, Ky, and served as faux-counsel in the landmark 2011 case, Hamburglar v. Heinz.