Blood operators around the world initially changed the eligibility criteria for those who lived or spent time in the UK, Republic of Ireland and France in the late 1990s as a precautionary measure due to potential exposure to prion contaminated beef products and transfusions during the ‘mad cow’ (BSE) outbreak and the risk of humans acquiring the prion caused illness variant Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease (vCJD).

At the time, it was difficult to assess the extent of the outbreak, and the likelihood of transmission by transfusion of blood and blood products. The first line of defense for blood operators internationally was to change the eligibility guidelines for people in the countries at most risk for vCJD from donating.

What was the reason for this eligibility criteria?

  • Those who have spent a cumulative total of five years or more in France and/or Republic of Ireland between January 1, 1980 and December 31, 2001 , or received a transfusion in these countries. 

  • Those who spent a cumulative total of three months or more in the United Kingdom (UK) between January 1, 1980 a nd December 31, 1996, or received a transfusion in the UK.

Who may be eligible? 

For those who previously tried to donate, but were ineligible due to the risk of vCJD, Canadian Blood Services will begin updating donor profiles after receiving Health Canada approval of the eligibility change. Once a donor’s profile has been updated, they will be able to book an appointment to donate again, provided they meet all other eligibility requirements. 

Please call us at 1-888-2DONATE to book your appointment on or after December 3, 2023.

When can I book an appointment?

For more information, call: 1-888-2-DONATE or chat now.

Fill out the form to keep up to date on our latest announcements.

Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (vCJD), commonly referred to as the human variant of ‘mad cow’ disease, is a very rare, fatal neurological disease that was discovered in the mid-90s after the ‘mad cow’ outbreak that affected cattle in the United Kingdom. 

Eating beef and beef products contaminated with the infectious agent of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE or ‘mad cow’ disease) is the main cause of vCJD. vCJD differs from classical Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD/cCJD), in that CJD is not caused from BSE or ‘mad cow’ disease. This eligibility change only applies to the human variant of ‘mad cow’ disease (vCJD).

What is vCJD / human variant of ‘mad cow’ disease?

To learn more, call: 1-888-2-DONATE or chat now.

What is ‘mad cow’ disease?

Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (vCJD), commonly referred to as the human variant of ‘mad cow’ disease, is a very rare, fatal disease that was discovered in the mid-90s after the ‘mad cow’ outbreak that affected cattle in the UK. Eating beef contaminated with ‘mad cow’ is the main cause of vCJD.

Am I eligible to donate now?

You may now be eligible to donate blood, plasma or platelets if you...

  • spent a cumulative total of five years or more in France and/or Republic of Ireland between January 1, 1980, and December 31, 2001, or received a transfusion in these countries,
  • spent a cumulative total of three months or more in the United Kingdom (UK) between January 1, 1980, and December 31, 1996, or received a transfusion in the UK.

This change also aligns with the change we made in 2022, which changed the eligibility related to vCJD for those who have lived in Saudi Arabia and/or Western Europe.

What was the reason for the criteria change?

In the late 1990s, blood operators around the world changed donor eligibility criteria for those who lived or spent time in the UK, Republic of Ireland and France as a precautionary measure during the ‘mad cow’ outbreak. At the time, it was difficult to assess the extent of the outbreak, and the likelihood that the disease could be transmitted by blood, platelet or plasma transfusion.

What other countries are included in this change?

Saudi Arabia, Germany, Italy, Netherlands (Holland), Switzerland, Austria, Belgium, Spain, Portugal, Denmark, Luxembourg, and Liechtenstein.

Am I eligible to donate now?

You may now be eligible to donate blood, plasma or platelets if you...

  • spent a cumulative total of five years or more in France and/or Republic of Ireland between January 1, 1980, and December 31, 2001, or received a transfusion in these countries,

  • spent a cumulative total of three months or more in the United Kingdom (UK) between January 1, 1980, and December 31, 1996, or received a transfusion in the UK.

This change also aligns with the change we made in 2022, which changed the eligibility related to vCJD for those who have lived in Saudi Arabia and/or Western Europe.

Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (vCJD), commonly referred to as the human variant of ‘mad cow’ disease, is a very rare, fatal disease that was discovered in the mid-90s after the ‘mad cow’ outbreak that affected cattle in the UK. Eating beef contaminated with ‘mad cow’ is the main cause of vCJD.

What was the reason for the criteria change?

In the late 1990s, blood operators around the world changed donor eligibility criteria for those who lived or spent time in the UK, Republic of Ireland and France as a precautionary measure during the ‘mad cow’ outbreak. At the time, it was difficult to assess the extent of the outbreak, and the likelihood that the disease could be transmitted by blood, platelet or plasma transfusion.

What would you give to save a life? 

For more information, call: 
1-888-2-DONATE or chat now.

Please provide your contact information if you’d like to receive our latest updates about the eligibility changes and learn more about how you can help save lives in your community and across Canada.

If you've been there, you can make all the difference here.

What is 'mad cow' disease?

What other countries are included in this change?

Saudi Arabia, Germany, Italy, Netherlands (Holland), Switzerland, Austria, Belgium, Spain, Portugal, Denmark, Luxembourg, and Liechtenstein.

By joining Canada's Lifeline, you could give a patient a second chance at life. 

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Now even more of us can make all the difference.

Welcome! We've updated our eligibility criteria and are excited to welcome more new donors who wish to make all the difference for patients across Canada.  
 
If you’ve lived or spent time in theUnited Kingdom, Republic of Ireland or France during the ‘mad cow disease’ outbreak of the 1980s and 1990s, you may now be eligible to donate blood, plasma and platelets in Canada. 
 
We can’t wait to welcome you to Canada's Lifeline as a donor when you’re ready!   

We’ve updated donor eligibility criteria related to the ‘mad cow’ disease outbreak.  

Starting December 4th, you can book a life saving appointment.

Book now

Padma Ranjan made her first donation in Vancouver on December 5, 2023. She lived in the UK for 10 years, from 1976 to 1986, and until recently was ineligible to donate with Canada’s Lifeline.

This first donation holds a special place in Padma’s heart. Her husband, Jaya, became unwell a few years ago and was regularly in the hospital. He would feel nauseous, weak, lightheaded and have trouble walking.

The doctors soon discovered an underlying medical condition that was causing internal blood loss. For over a year he received weekly blood transfusions as treatment.

“I tried to donate for the first time over a year ago because I wanted to feel like I was supporting him, and to give back,” says Padma. “But I wasn’t able to because I had lived in the UK for a decade. When I heard the eligibility changed, I donated as soon as I could.”

Padma has already booked her next donation and looks forward to making this a regular tradition.

Padma is looking forward to being a regular blood donor now.

In 2022, Alicia Perera-Thomas and her husband Marvin Thomas were excited to be welcoming their third child Rashaun, into the world soon.

 Early in Alicia’s pregnancy, doctors told her that she had developed antibodies that could affect her baby’s health, which meant she would need to be closely monitored. During one of her appointments, Alicia learned she needed to deliver her baby right away — ahead of term.

 “Right then and there they said he needed to be delivered,” says Alicia. “A few days later he had a blood transfusion to increase his red blood cell count. A few weeks later he had a second transfusion.”

Alicia and Marvin are grateful that donors made the time to donate so that the blood their son needed was available during that critical time after his birth.

“For Rashaun’s birthday, we’ve got 27 people signed up to donate blood with us” says Marvin. “I’m especially excited because I’m from the UK, and now I can donate blood in Canada.” Because of changes to donor eligibility, people like Marvin, who were ineligible to donate until recently, can now help save lives.

The Thomas family is grateful to donors for saving their newborn baby’s life.

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Padma,
blood donor

Rashaun,
blood recipient