Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease

Héma-Québec modifies its donor selection criterion

Montréal, July 6, 2005 – Effective July 6, 2005, Héma-Québec will modify its blood donor selection criterion with respect to variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. The blood product supplier's objective is to allow more individuals to give blood and to reinstate certain donors excluded with the former criterion. Furthermore, travellers who made their first visit to the United Kingdom or France since January 1, 1997 will now be allowed to donate blood, regardless of the length of their stay.

Up to now, Héma-Québec had permanently excluded individuals who had travelled in certain Western European countries—namely Germany, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Spain, France, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Ireland, the United Kingdom and Switzerland. The criteria for exclusion covered the period that began on January 1, 1980 and were ongoing and cumulative. From now on, in the case of travellers who have visited the United Kingdom or France, the period of restriction will now be limited to December 31, 1996.

The exclusion concerning donors who have spent six months or more in Western Europe since January 1, 1980 is maintained. However, visits to the United Kingdom and France since January 1, 1997 shall no longer be included in the cumulative duration of time spent in Western Europe. In addition, any individual who has received a transfusion of blood, red blood cells, platelets or plasma since January 1, 1980 in Western Europe will be disqualified from giving blood.

Héma-Québec decided to reassess the relevance of this donor selection criterion in light of the effective application of surveillance and control measures for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in the United Kingdom and France since 1996, the low number of cases to date and reassuring predictions as to the disease’s long-term impact. It should be noted that the 1996 cut-off date applicable to stays in the United Kingdom and France had been recommended by Health Canada and is compliant with the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) standards concerning blood and blood products.

Blood donors who are affected by these new measures MUST call 1 888 666-4362, extension 218 from Monday to Friday, between 9:00 a.m. and 5:30 p.m., BEFORE arriving at a blood drive location. Héma-Québec representatives will evaluate their qualification to donate blood in light of the revised criterion regarding time spent abroad. Potential donors may also visit Héma-Québec’s Web site at www.hema-quebec.qc.ca for further information.

Héma-Québec is obliged to apply qualification criteria to all individuals who wish to donate blood in order to ensure the safety of blood transfusion recipients and donors as well as the maximum possible safety of the supply of blood products.

Héma-Québec's mission is to efficiently provide adequate quantities of safe, optimal blood components, substitutes, human tissues and cord blood to meet the needs of all Quebeckers; provide and develop expertise and services, along with specialized and innovative products in the fields of transfusion medicine and human tissue transplantation.

This summer, bring good habits to life.
Give blood. Give life.

Additional notes:
In September 1999, Héma-Québec adopted a new permanent exclusion criterion applicable to all donors who had spent one month or more, on a cumulative basis, in the United Kingdom. In November 2000, the organization applied the same criterion to individuals having spent six months or more in France on a cumulative basis. In October 2001, Héma-Québec modified this last criterion and excluded all blood donors who had spent three months or more in France on a cumulative basis since 1980. The organization also added two new measures: the exclusion of all blood donors who had spent six months or more on a cumulative basis in Western Europe; as well as that of individuals who had received a blood transfusion in the United Kingdom since 1980. At the time when these safety measures were introduced, several epidemiological aspects of variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease remained largely unknown.

Effective July 6, 2005, only those individuals who have cumulatively spent one month or more in the United Kingdom between January 1, 1980 and December 31, 1996 inclusively; three months or more in France between January 1, 1980 and December 31, 1996 inclusively; six months or more in Western Europe since January 1, 1980; and those who have received a transfusion of blood, red blood cells, platelets or plasma in Western Europe since 1980, will not be permitted to give blood.