Canadian Blood Services to Expand Deferral Policy for vCJD

Canadian Blood Services is expanding its deferral policy for vCJD (variant Creutzfeldt –Jakob disease) policy to include Saudi Arabia. A new question will be added to the Record of Donation donor questionnaire asking each donor if he or she has spent a cumulative total of six months or more in Saudi Arabia between 1980 and 1996. Answering yes will result in that person not being eligible to donate blood for transfusion.

Canadian Blood Services began the process to make this change to the deferral policy (as communicated to Health Canada on February 24, 2011) immediately upon learning of a new case of probable vCJD in a Canadian resident who lived Saudi Arabia between 1980 and 1996.

Officials believe that the probable case of vCJD was acquired some years ago, most likely from imported British beef during that critical time period.

The individual was not a blood donor or blood recipient.

In addition to the current case, there were two other suspected cases of vCJD outside of Canada that have been linked to patients who were current or former residents of Saudi Arabia. While it is not known with certainty that these cases are related to consumption of imported U.K. beef, it is clear that vCJD is a fatal disease that can be transmitted via a blood transfusion.

While the risk of vCJD through blood transfusions is very low, Canadian Blood Services is taking these precautionary steps to ensure the safest blood supply to patients.

This change is expected to take place in mid-June.

The current policy can be viewed at:

For more information on this policy change, please visit the Health Canada website at: Health Canada.