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IBTS abandons plans to ease its restrictions on former UK residents

“IBTS was hoping to ease some of the restrictions in place for vCJD this year. However, there was a confirmed case of vCJD in England earlier this year. Consequently, the IBTS will be retaining the measures to protect against the risk of transmission of vCJD,” an IBTS spokesperson informed MI.

The details of how restrictions would have been eased were not disclosed to MI.

Currently, the IBTS has a permanent deferral policy in regard to blood donation by people who resided for 12 months or more in Northern Ireland, England, Scotland, Wales, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man between 1980 and 1996. 

The period of 12 months or more is the sum total of all time spent in the UK between 1 January 1980 and 31 December 1996, including brief trips, weekend visits, attending college, holidays, work or periods of residence.

This policy was introduced in 2004 following the first confirmed case of vCJD transmission via blood transfusion in the UK. It is a precaution against the risk of transmission of vCJD through blood transfusion.

People who had certain medical/dental procedures in the UK have also been excluded from donating.

Confirmation that someone had vCJD is only possible post mortem and probable cases are diagnosed on the basis of clinical criteria.

The IBTS says the risk of having contracted vCJD through travelling and living in the UK in the relevant period is considered to be low.

In 2015, it emerged that then Minister for Health Leo Varadkar had requested the IBTS to review the policy.

An IBTS spokesperson told MI last week that, as with all deferral policies, it is “kept under constant review in light of new and emerging scientific evidence”.

Recently, the IBTS called for extra donations as the national blood supply was, at the time, down to just three days. While blood stocks have since stabilised, Minister for Health Simon Harris reiterated the call for donation while giving blood on 10 November alongside Oireachtas colleagues.

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