Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD) – I can’t give blood as I lived in the UK for six months between 1980-1996. When will I be able to donate?

The Blood Service currently can’t take blood donations from people who lived in the UK for six months or more from 1980–1996.

This is related to the fatal variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD, the human form of the bovine condition sometimes known as ‘mad cow disease’):

  • Although the number of cases of vCJD in UK is declining, we still don’t know the full extent of the exposure during this period.
  • There is currently no blood test available for vCJD suitable for screening blood donors.
  • vCJD can incubate in someone for decades before they start to show symptoms. 
  • This brain disease is incurable and usually fatal.

Please note that vCJD is different to classical Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.

Why does Australia have this rule? I was able to donate blood in the UK.

The UK’s National Blood Service doesn’t have this particular rule because if they stopped everyone who was a resident during this time from donating blood, there would be dangerously few people left in the UK who could donate. The lack of donated blood would be more dangerous for patients there than the chance of contracting vCJD.

The Australian Red Cross Blood Service has sufficient blood donors to enable this safety measure. Many other blood services, including the USA, Canada, New Zealand and Singapore, have similar restrictions on UK donors.

When will this change?

We’re monitoring progress of the development of a vCJD screening test. Whilst there are tests that have the potential to detect the disease, they are not suitable for blood donor screening. In addition, even if a suitable screening test becomes available, there are several issues that would need to be considered before the test is implemented and policy changed

Learn more about our policy here.

We understand not being able to donate blood may be disappointing, but there are other ways you can help.

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