Indefinite Deferral

I went to the law school today to donate blood. It’s been a bit more than a year since the last time I went. I had been to India recently, and there is, they tell me a chance I might have malaria. If I don’t develop signs of malaria in the next year, I’m allowed to come back.

Fast-forward to right about now (actually, about 13 hours ago). I walk in, they ask me some preliminary questions (all “no”) they stick my finger (hemoglobin test), take my blood pressure (121/80), etc etc. Then, I answer all the questions — questions which have changed since I have last given blood.

The red cross guidelines now (as of October 2001) state:

who has lived in any European country or combination of countries (including the United Kingdom) for a cumulative total of six months since 1980

The fear is that Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease will slip into the US blood supply. This is understandable. I’d feel better, though, if our blood supply was guarded by something other than some simple questions asked to donors. The nurse who took my information told me that she had turned away 5 people (including me) since they’d opened at 9AM. I arrived at 10:30. I can’t imagine how many people with viable blood they must be turning away.

So, some random person can go to europe for a month, contract CJD, and then donate blood? Which they can’t screen? What? Granted, the likelihood of this is low: According to the CDC, the annual incidence of CJD is “1 case per million persons in the United States.”

Jeez. I’m sortof mad, but I also see their point. They don’t want to infect the blood supply: hence, the restriction. At the same time, I’m not really convinced that their safety measures keep us any safer. What I can say is that they’re keeping a sizeable number of the blood-donating public from donating.

It doesn’t help that, as a country, we’re complete asshats about it. the US is refusing to introduce mandatory BSE testing of all slaughtered cows, a point of contention with the japanese:

Although Japanese consumers are saying they want to buy beef that has undergone blanket testing, the U.S. is saying that this is unnecessary and that they should buy U.S. beef that has only been checked if the cow was at least 30 months old.

A US firm (with its business interests in mind) “suggested that blanket testing only be introduced for beef for export to Japan.” the US denied the request. Ostensibly, because it would put undue burden on other firms wanting to sell to Japan. Which won’t buy our untested beef.

Is this the answer to our blood shortage? Or our (kind-of-nonexistent) CJD/BSE problem? Is this how to eradicate a disease? Especially when the mortality rate is below influenza (36,000 deaths per year), and almost any other disease I care to name. I’m not convinced.

Categorized as Journal Tagged


  1. Yeah, experiments have shown that it can be transferred via blood transfusions. I don’t think it’s been demonstrated in humans, but it is possible.

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