Aust blood bank pushes for UK ban re-think

The Australian Red Cross is reconsidering a ban on some UK visitors and residents donating blood.
The Australian Red Cross is reconsidering a ban on some UK visitors and residents donating blood.

An Australian blood bank is reconsidering a ban on receiving donations from those in the United Kingdom during last century's "mad cow disease" epidemic.

Lifeblood, a branch of the Australian Red Cross, currently does not accept blood from anyone who was in the UK for six months or more from 1980 to 1996.

At the time, there was a large outbreak of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in European cattle, with most cases of the human variant - Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD) - identified in Britain.

The fatal brain disease is believed to be caused by eating beef products infected with BSE, and it can be transmitted through blood transfusions.

The Australian Red Cross previously set the limit at six months to "reduce the risk without threatening our blood supply".

But a spokeswoman told AAP that Lifeblood has reviewed the latest medical advice and is preparing a submission to propose wait time changes for those who lived in or visited the UK during the vCJD risk period.

"Our submission is currently being reviewed by external medical experts, prior to consideration by the Australian regulator, the Therapeutic Goods Administration," she said in a statement on Monday.

"We look forward to having more to say about our submission in future.

"Lifeblood would like to make it easier for all Australians to give blood, while ensuring Australia's blood and blood products are as safe as possible for blood recipients."

Late last month, Lifeblood said the nation's bloodstocks were running low after record-breaking floods across NSW saw a drop in donations.

The group needs 31,000 donations every week to help Australians undergoing trauma, surgery, cancer treatment, pregnancy and a host of other situations.

Australian Associated Press