Health Canada

Health Canada

March 29, 2011 11:23 ET

Blood Donation Deferral Policy Expanded Beyond the United Kingdom and Western Europe

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - March 29, 2011) - Frequently Asked Questions: Blood Donation Deferral Policy Expanded Beyond Western Europe (

Health Canada, in consultation with Canadian Blood Services and Héma-Québec, is announcing new protective measures regarding blood donation. This follows the Public Health Agency of Canada report ( of a new case of laboratory-diagnosed probable vCJD (Variant Creuzfeldt-Jacob Disease) in a Canadian resident. The change will expand donor deferral in order to minimize the risk of possible transmission of vCJD to patients receiving blood transfusions.

Canada's new requirement will expand the existing blood donor deferrals for the UK, France and Western Europe to include Saudi Arabia. The deferral period will be for those donors who have resided in Saudi Arabia for six months or longer during the period 1980 to 1996.

This change results from the recent patient in Canada, who is believed to have contracted the disease while living in Saudi Arabia. This case, along with two others outside of Canada, brings the total number of vCJD cases tied to current or former residents of Saudi Arabia to three. This number is comparable to cases seen in certain countries in Europe.

Previous blood donor deferrals were implemented by Health Canada based on similar numbers for other countries. Expanding the deferral to donors with travel and residency history from 1980 to 1996 in Saudi Arabia is a reasonable precautionary step to protect Canada's blood supply from vCJD.

During the period between 1980 and 1996, Saudi Arabia imported a large amount of beef from the UK, which could have been exposed to BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy). Evidence indicates that the patient acquired the disease overseas and not from eating beef in Canada since he was already displaying symptoms prior to arriving in Canada.

vCJD is the human form of BSE. It is fatal in humans and can be transmitted via blood transfusion of infected blood components. Currently, there are no available blood tests to screen donors for vCJD. As such, Health Canada, along with the Canadian Blood Services and Héma-Québec, have a responsibility to put in place measures to help prevent infectious diseases from entering the blood supply.

Canada has one of the safest blood systems in the world due to our strict licensing, inspection and surveillance requirements and the modified screening procedures being implemented are intended to protect the health and safety of blood transfusion recipients in Canada.

Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada are continuing to monitor for vCJD cases in Canada and around the world. Should new cases be identified that require us to expand our blood donor deferral policy for other countries, Canadians can be confident that we will do so in order to protect Canada's blood supply.

Health Canada would also like to reassure Canadian residents that there have been no reported cases of transmission of vCJD by blood transfusion in Canada and none of the three patients have ever donated blood in Canada. Moreover, this precautionary measure, will not significantly impact the supply of blood in Canada for residents needing blood transfusions.

Consumers requiring more information about this information update can contact Health Canada's public enquiries line at (613) 957-2991, or toll free at 1-866-225-0709.

Également disponible en français

The Arabic version of this press release is available at the following link:

Contact Information

  • Media Inquiries:
    Health Canada
    Public Inquiries: