Will I ever be able to give blood?

This thread is not about that other reason why others can’t give blood.

I would like to donate blood. I can not for the following reason (from the American Red Cross):

You were a member of the of the U.S. military, a civilian military employee, or a dependent of a member of the U.S. military who spent a total time of 6 months on or associated with a military base in any of the following areas during the specified time frames
•From 1980 through 1990 - Belgium, the Netherlands (Holland), or Germany
•From 1980 through 1996 - Spain, Portugal, Turkey, Italy or Greece.

Because apparently everyone in Eurpoe has Mad Cow’s Disease. Will there ever be a time when they decide its OK and I don’t have MCD? How about those poor Europeans, do they just bleed out because none of them are allowed to donate to each other? (that is sarcasm, I do know its an ARC rule not worldwide) Will this continue to be a lifetime ban?

I’m guessing not. Some restrictions have been reconsidered in the recent past, so apparently it can happen.

That is what I was alluding to in my first sentence. I figured people reading the title would assume I’m coming out of the closet. Not that there is anything wrong with that. The restrictions about gay men giving blood is an entirely different issue. The FDA has decided to continue the ban. The American Red Cross wants to at least ease the ban. John Kerry and others are putting pressure on the FDA to change their stance. It is obviously a political issue as well as a medical one. There are no politicians calling for those who lived in Europe during the 80s to be allowed to give blood. Its not that hot a topic.

I guess to go along with my original question, is it really a danger? Has the European blood supply been tainted with Mad Cow? Have there been cases of Mad Cow by blood transfusion? 20 something years later does this still make sense?

I am bared from ever giving blood again because I apparently have something that triggers an HIV test, even through I don’t have HIV (Whew, there was a little panic when the test came back positive.) It isn’t worth it to collect my blood just to fail the test and have to be handled it in a special way or thrown away. Especially when the person who gets my blood will might then trigger an HIV test which would cause more panic. I checked again maybe 10 years later and the answer is still NO.

I’m barred from giving blood here in Australia because I was in the UK in the late 80’s/early 90’s.

There are a LOT of people who fail the same test (8% of the blood-giving population is a figure I seem to recall). But of course, as time goes on and new members of the blood-giving population who weren’t even alive in the early 90s turn 18 (or maybe it’s 16 these days) and us old fogies start dying off, the proportion gets smaller and smaller.

Personally, I don’t think they’re ever going to take the restriction off. As far as they’re concerned, the problem is gradually solving itself year by year without any action on their part.

Is it? I thought the concern was “this class of people is presumed to have a high rate of exposure to a specific blood-borne pathogen” and the decision was made to ban all donation (in part, a political decision so that people wouldn’t worry about the blood supply).

I certainly wouldn’t be surprised if prions can be transmitted by blood transfusion, being both extremely small and not technically alive. But assuming it’s possible, don’t you fall into a “class of people presumed to have a high rate of exposure to a specific blood-borne pathogen” and a partly-political decision has been made to ban all donation?

The cases seem roughly analogous to me, not “entirely different.”

Since both HIV and MC can be present in a person with no indicator or test to prove it for a while, it makes some sense to ban donations from at-risk groups. Even if the ban seems overly broad or too long - without acceptable tests, and because of past experience, they decide to err on the side of caution. Remember when Mad Cow first hit the news in a big way, there were predictions of Britons keeling over by the double-decker busload every day in a few years. That hasn’t materialized, but nobody can guarantee that it still won’t happen, so better safe than sorry.

Entirely different. There is no political aspect to this. Except for those in my situation I would doubt many of the public knows of this 20 year ban. Few would know what a prion is. If the ban were taken away today it wouldn’t make the news. No one would care. There are no Senators writing letters to the FDA about it. There is no “class of people” who feeling descriminated against because of their lifestyle. Back in the 80s (which I remember very well) there was no public panic over the blood supply in the US, there was panic about beef imports. At around the same time there was panic concerning the blood supply and AIDS. From a political and social point of view it is entirely different. As for medical reasons, thats the point of this thread.

The concern is primarily because scientists are unable to actually conduct experiments on transmission of the infectious prion in humans. There are a few cases where tissue transplants have transmitted CJD to humans, a cornea transplant in the 70’s and contaminated EEG needles in 1977.

The second concern is about the long incubation period of vCJD (the human form of Mad Cow). In a study with sheep it was shown that blood from a sheep in the incubation period was infectious, but the study was not able to show the same thing in cows. (How the Cows Turned Mad Maxime Schwartz)

Why take the chance that the disease can be transmitted from human to human by blood products during a 30 yr (or longer) incubation period? The Red Cross would be liable for making that choice.

Good question Loach.

While it doesn’t seem fair, until they can screen for it with 100% certainty, which may be impossible, I don’t see them ever lifting the ban.

It’s not a political decision, just a way to safeguard the population in case prions are passed through the blood. A lot of people got infected with HIV through blood transfusions and they want to avoid a problem like that from ever happening again.

As has been mentioned, over time the possibly infected population will be drawn down naturally, so why take a chance? There is apparently enough blood supply available to eliminate this pool of donors without impacting the overall blood supply. If they couldn’t find enough eligible donors perhaps they would reconsider the ban… but I doubt it.

I don’t know what they do in the UK since virtually 100% of their donors would fail this test… apparently they don’t worry as much about it as in other countries.

You can always donate blood for yourself (autologous?), which while not the same thing means there is a ready supply of your blood should you ever need it. Of course blood is perishable and you would have to periodically donate to ensure there was enough of your blood to be of value to you.

Thanks for the reply. I understand being cautious if it is a possibility. But has there been any evidence at all that anyone contracted the disease just by living in Germany for 6 months during the 80s? Right now we are at the 20-30 year mark. You would think that something would have shown up by now. At least once.

I’m not worried about myself. If I could I would donate periodically. I check every now and then to see if the rule is still in effect.

Look at it this way:

  1. Everybody - yes, everybody - has some small chance of having something in their blood that would harm someone if they donated blood to them and yet which cannot be detected with any simple test.

  2. Using a small set of questions beforehand, it is possible to approximately rank the probability that each potential donor has some such a thing in their blood.

  3. The most efficient way to get just enough donated blood that is lower in probability of having something that makes it harmful to the person donated to is to ask those questions beforehand and reject just enough of the higher-probability donors to still allow enough donated blood that no one needing blood will go without.

  4. If there were an emergency that they needed more blood desperately, they would immediately allow higher-probability donors.

They’re doing their best. They are the experts on public health, not you. If you still feel a need to do something for humanity, find something other than blood donation.

Gee thanks.

Well, there’s you, and possibly “those in [your] situation,” being denied because of your “lifestyle.”

But I got no class.

I was disqualified by the original Mad Cow restrictions, but they were clarified and made more specific and I’m eligible now. I wouldn’t give blood to the Red Cross anyway, but that’s another story.

I am barred from donating in Canada because I lived for a year in the UK in 1988-89. I think in Canada, the rules vary according to the country you lived in. You cannot have lived in the UK or France for longer than 3 months, other Western European countries for longer than 5 years, and (new last year) Saudi Arabia for longer than 6 months between 1980 and 1996.

Honestly, I agree with Wendall here. I, too, am technically not allowed to donate blood because I spent more than 3 months in the UK during the whole vCJD thing. I used to give blood a lot before, but now I don’t. I don’t blame them for minimizing risk and do something else to give back to the community.

It’s ironic really, when many thousands of British people have been given Hepatitis and other things because of inadequetely screened blood imported from the US (and maybe Canada).

Meanwhile, we haven’t given any North Americans CJD. Nor ourselves!

What nonsense the criteria are. And homophobic in America, too.

(Oh cite for my claim about the US infecting Brits: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-humber-16946004)