MURRAY, Utah (ABC4 Utah) – The FDA has updated its guidance, recommendations to Reduce the Possible Risk of Transmission of Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD) and variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (vCJD) by Blood and Blood Components. In alignment with this change, the Red Cross will update its donor eligibility for individuals who spent time in certain European countries and were previously considered to have been exposed to a potential risk of transmission of variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, commonly referred to as mad cow disease.

vCJD, commonly referred to as mad cow disease, is caused by infectious agents that may be able to be transmitted through a blood transfusion. CJD has never been proven to be transfusion transmitted. The number of vCJD cases transmitted by blood is extremely small.

There are no tests to detect these agents in blood, which is why FDA mandated special precautions, such as excluding donors who have traveled to or resided in certain parts of Europe, to protect the blood supply.

In alignment with new FDA guidelines, the Red Cross will eliminate the deferral of donors who
spent time in the certain European countries from 1980 to 2001, who were previously considered to have geographic risk of possible exposure to vCJD.

The Red Cross will also eliminate the deferral for individuals who received a blood transfusion from certain European counties from 1980 to present.

In alignment with previous FDA guidance, the Red Cross removed the deferral for individuals who spent time on U.S. military bases in Europe.

The existing deferral remains in place for sporadic Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (sCJD), which is
acquired spontaneously, familial CJD (fCJD) that is genetic, and iatrogenic CJD (iCJD), which is
acquired from hospital contamination. These forms of CJD are not linked to vCJD mad cow
disease.

This deferral is more complex to remove than others as there are decades of donors in our system who have been deferred under the previous FDA requirements.

As the Red Cross continues to work through this process, individuals who have questions about their donor record can contact the Red Cross Donor and Client Support Center at 1-866-236-3276.

Those previously deferred under former vCJD criteria will need to be reinstated before being able to donate. Reinstatement of previously deferred donors began October 3 and it’s estimated it will take several months to complete as it affects hundreds of thousands of donors. Individuals will be informed when their reinstatement is complete.

Individuals may also contact the Red Cross Donor and Client Support Center at 1-866-236-3276 for information about donor eligibility.

The Red Cross has many layers of safety in place to help protect the blood supply and health of valued donors, including donor eligibility screening and rigorous testing performed on each donation. The Red Cross remains steadfast in its commitment to ensure that every blood recipient has access to safe, lifesaving blood products when needed.

Click here for more information on Red Cross Blood Donation.