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Ban on blood donations from people who lived in UK to be lifted

The ban was introduced as a result of a Mad Cow Disease epidemic.

Image: Shutterstock/Olena Yakobchuk

THE UK BLOOD donation ban, put in place during an epidemic of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy – commonly known as Mad Cow Disease – is set to be lifted in October. 

Introduced in 2004, the ban meant that anyone who had lived in the UK and Northern Ireland between 1980 and 1996 for more than a year was not allowed to donate blood in Ireland. 

This period covered the time when the disease reached epidemic levels in the UK. But now the ban will be lifted on 7 October. 

Four cases of the transmission of the disease Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease from donors to blood recipients had been identified during the period, though none in Ireland. 

Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease is the human form of Mad Cow Disease and was first reported in the UK in 1996. 

In a bid to prevent transmission of the disease, the Irish Blood Transfusion Service decided in 1999 to remove white cells from all donated blood. 

In a statement, Medical and Scientific Director of the Irish Blood Transfusion Service, Professor Stephen Field, said that they had “looked at the risk and the risk is actually infinitesimally tiny”. 

“It means that we will have a whole lot more eligible donors,” he said. 

The Irish Blood Transfusion Service estimates that 9,000 donors were lost when the ban was put in place. 

It hopes that by lifting the ban, the blood supply from donors could increase by up to 10%. 

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