A previous ban on blood donation from some groups of people related to concerns about Mad Cow Disease has been repealed by the US Food and Drug Administration.
Several outbreaks of Mad Cow Disease, which is a rare but incurable and terminal neurodegenerative disease found most often in cattle, occurred in Europe in the 1990’s with the first case in humans confirmed in 1996. Steps to protect patients and consumers included barring blood donation from people who lived and ate in areas that experienced these outbreaks. The concern was over the potential for transmission of Creutzfeld-Jakob Disease (as Mad Cow disease is known in humans) via blood transfusions.
Individuals barred from donating blood included anyone who spent time in the United Kingdom from 1980 to 1996 or in France or Ireland from 1980 to 2001. It also included anyone who received a blood transfusion in the United Kingdom, France or Ireland from 1980 through June of 2022.
The FDA has now determined that the risk of spreading Mad Cow Disease through blood donation is only theoretical. So in June restrictions on all three of the above groups were repealed.
According to Robert Harper, Chief Compliance Officer for SunCoast Blood Centers, this means a lot. The Sarasota-based nonprofit operating blood donation centers and organizing blood drives in the region has an active donor base of almost 40,000 people. Harper estimates that nearly 5% of their prospective blood donors – about 1,200 individuals – were turned away under the Mad Cow restrictions. SunCoast can now reach out to them to share this new information.
“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.”
There are also many other people in our community who knew about the restrictions and simply never even attempted to donate. So efforts are underway to get the word out to let them know they are now eligible.
If you are interested in becoming a blood donor, your donation is urgently needed and these resources can help:
For anyone in the Sarasota/Manatee area, SunCoast Blood Centers can point you towards the nearest blood bank or blood drive.
For the location of blood donation centers anywhere else in the U.S., the American Red Cross has information.
For more information about upcoming blood drives at Sarasota Memorial, go to smh.com/giveblood