SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4) – People who lived or worked overseas in Europe during the 1980s and 90s can now donate blood and platelets after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) updated their guidelines on Monday.
The change applies to individuals who spent time in the United Kingdom, France, and Ireland from 1980 to 2001. This change also allows anyone who received blood transfusions in the same countries anytime since 1980.
Many Utahns who may have served in the military during that time or missionaries for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints may have been affected by the ban on blood donation.
The original ban on donations of blood and platelets during this time period came out of an abundance of caution in 1999. Officials feared these individuals may transmit variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD), which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says was first described in 1996 in the U.K.
vCJD, more commonly known as mad cow disease, is a neurological degenerative disease that can be fatal, according to the CDC. It is most commonly found in cows, however, can be transmitted to humans by eating infected beef.
WebMD says the disease can affect all age groups and is very hard to diagnose. Symptoms are related to the nervous symptom and can cause depression, loss of coordination, and later on in the life of the disease, dementia. People who are infected by vCJD usually die within about a year of being infected.
The FDA said after extensive research and reassessment, the FDA has determined the risk of individuals who spent time in the U.K., France, and Ireland since 1980 having vCJD is now negligible.
“This dramatic change in regulations is a result of ongoing research in the field,” said Waseem Anani, MD, medical director of ARUP Blood Services in Salt Lake City. “We are excited to welcome those who lived in Europe during this time, including missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and members of the military, to donate blood to support our community and save lives.”
The change comes two weeks after the Utah Red Cross called on Utahns for blood donations after winter storms slammed the American mid-west, canceling hundreds of drives and leaving thousands of donations uncollected.
Utahns can donate blood through ARUP Blood Services by visiting their website or by calling 801-584-5272 to schedule an appointment.