In the spirit of Krever Report HÉMA-QUÉBEC takes new precautions concerning variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (vCJD)

New directive will be applied to donors who have traveled in United Kingdom, France and Western Europe

Saint-Laurent, August 30, 2001- HÉMA-QUÉBEC will exclude, as of October 1, 2001, donors who have spent, since 1980, three months or more in France and six cumulative months or more in the following countries (namely Western Europe) : Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Switzerland, Austria, Belgium, Spain, Republic of Ireland, Portugal, Denmark, Luxembourg and Liechtenstein. Deferral concerning donors how have spent one month or more in United Kingdom is maintained.

In September 1999, HÉMA-QUÉBEC announced the exclusion of blood and plasma donors who have spent a cumulative total of one month or more in the United Kingdom since 1980 and made the same announcement in August 2000 for donors who have spent a cumulative total of six month or more in France.

Yesterday, Health Canada's Bureau of Biologics and Radiopharmaceuticals (BBR) requested that the country's two blood suppliers (HÉMA-QUÉBEC and Canadian Blood Services) exclude, within the next three months, donors who have spent three cumulative months or more in the U.K. or in France, between 1980 and 1996 and those who have spent a combined cumulative total of 5 years or more in Western Europe since 1980. A blood supplier can exceed the national standard in such circumstances as long as the blood component supply is not endangered.

HÉMA-QUÉBEC expects this measure to reduce the number of donor by no more than 3% and has been able to absorb such a reduction in the number of active donors from earlier precautionary donor exclusion measures.

"Transmission of variant of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease through the bloodstream is still a strictly theoretical risk. However, as recommended by Judge Krever in his report, we are proceeding with extreme caution. At the same time, we must ensure that the blood supply is kept at an adequate level in order to meet the needs of hospital patients, and that it is as safe as possible. This is why we concluded that we could continue to serve hospitals adequately with 3% fewer donors" explained André Roch, Assistant to the Executive Director, Public Affairs, at HÉMA-QUÉBEC.

Variant of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, generally described as a prion disease (infectious protein), is a degenerative brain disorder and is always fatal. The disease is said to have been caused by human exposure to the agent that causes "mad cow disease", also known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), which appeared in the early 1980s in the U.K.

HÉMA-QUÉBEC thanks all blood and plasma donors for their understanding. The safety of the blood supply shall continue to be its number-one priority.

Just as they did last year, a large number of Quebeckers took part in this summer blood drives and as a result, the collective blood supply is currently at a healthy level. Nevertheless, it is still precarious given that a healthy level will only meet the needs of hospitals for a period of four days. Therefore, donors must continue to participate in blood drives to maintain this level.

HÉMA-QUÉBEC and approximately 25,000 volunteers organize 2,000 blood drives throughout Québec each year in order to meet the needs of hospital patients.

As part of its mandate, HÉMA-QUÉBEC's mission is to provide Quebeckers with sufficient quantities of safe, top-quality blood components, derivatives and substitutes to meet the needs of hospitals, and to provide recognized expertise and specialized services in the field of immunohematology.

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