Travel – I have travelled outside Australia. Can I still donate blood?

In most cases, yes. However you may have to wait a while – from four weeks to four months – before you can donate.

Please check before you book your donation appointment

Use the travel page to help you work out when you can donate after you return from travelling.

Why do I need to wait before donating?

Even if you take precautions when travelling to areas that have a high risk of certain infections carried by insects, animals or people, you can still catch something and not realise. You could even feel well and have no symptoms at all, but still have an infection that could be transmitted through your blood to a patient.

We ask you to wait a while before donating because of the chance of one or more of several serious infections, including:

  • Malaria
  • HIV
  • Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD or ‘mad cow’)
  • Dengue fever
  • Ebola virus
  • West Nile virus
  • Zika virus

Malaria

What: Most common infection carried by mosquitoes.
Where: Tropical and sub-tropical areas (check travel page).
When you can donate: If you have:

  • visited a malaria risk country* OR
  • ever lived for six or more months in a malaria risk country 

you can donate:

  • Plasma – Straight away after returning.
  • Whole blood and/or platelets – From four months after you return the Blood Service can test your blood for malaria antibodies (proteins that your body makes when fighting a malaria infection). If the test is clear, you can donate these.

If you have had malaria in the past we can test your blood for malaria antibodies four months after you have recovered. If the test is negative, we’ll be able to use all components of your donation for patients. We will contact you if the malaria antibody test is positive.

Exception – Papua New Guinea (PNG): This doesn’t apply to travel to PNG as there is a risk of relapsing malaria in that country. Despite a negative result for malaria antibodies, we will only be able to use the plasma portion of your donation for three years after you return from PNG.
* This includes docking in a port in these areas, even if you did not leave your ship, but does not apply to airport stopovers if you remained in the terminal building. 

HIV

What: Virus that causes acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS).
Where: Certain countries with a high prevalence of HIV in their general population (check travel page).
When you can donate: If you have sex with someone who lives in one of these areas you will be unable to donate blood for 12 months after the sexual activity (even if it was with condom). This is to reduce any possibility of HIV transmission.

Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD) – ‘Mad cow’

What: Incurable and usually fatal brain disease.
Where: United Kingdom (UK).
When you can donate: Not currently if you have: 

  • Lived in the UK between 1 January 1980 and 31 December 1996 for a total (cumulative) time of 6 months or more,

OR

  • Have received blood transfusions in the UK since 1 January 1980.

The Blood Service is hoping this will change if a reliable blood screening test is found for this infection. Read more about vCJD.

Dengue fever

What: Serious mosquito-borne infection
Where: Tropical and sub-tropical areas (check travel page). This can sometimes include areas of far north Queensland during dengue outbreaks. The Blood Service notifies local donors during these outbreaks.
When you can donate: Following travel to these areas we can use only the plasma portion of your blood for four weeks. If you were on a ship, this includes docking at a port in a risk area even if you did not leave your ship. This does not apply to airport stopovers if you remained in the terminal building. 

Ebola virus

What: Dangerous virus transmitted by contact with blood and other bodily fluids.
Where: Several African countries (check travel page).
When you can donate: Eight weeks after travelling to affected areas.

West Nile virus

What: Virus carried by mosquitoes.
Where: Much of the North American continent, including the United States and Canada (check travel page).
When you can donate: Four weeks after travelling to the USA or Canada. If you were on a ship, this includes docking at a port in a risk area even if you did not leave your ship. This does not apply to airport stopovers if you remained in the terminal building.

Zika virus:

The Australian Red Cross Blood Service currently defers donors who have travelled to countries with mosquito borne agents, such as dengue and malaria, that are a risk to the blood supply. At this stage, all countries affected by Zika outbreaks are already covered by temporary travel deferrals. Our team of blood safety experts will continue to monitor the countries impacted and will make any adjustments to these deferrals as required.    

See our travel page for more.