JIS News

Jamaica is still maintaining its ban on blood donations from persons who have lived for over 12 months in countries that are endemic for ‘mad cow’ disease or a variant of the Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD), which causes dementia in cows.
The ban, which has been in effect since February 2001, affects persons who have lived in countries such as the United Kingdom, France, Spain and Portugal. Speaking to JIS News, Director of the National Blood Transfusion Service (NBTS), Dr. Lundie Richards said that the World Health Organisation (WHO) released a document recently, which serves as a guideline in regard to ‘mad cow’ disease and as such, authorities in different countries adopt different policies. He cited the case of Japan, whereby, if a person overnights in somewhere like the United Kingdom, he or she cannot donate blood. He said that in the case of Jamaica, the NBTS was steadfastly sticking to the ban. “It has been proven that you can transmit the human form of ‘mad cow’ disease through blood. There have been at least three cases described in Europe in the last couple years,” he pointed out.
“What we do not know for sure is how long it takes for this disease to develop and I do not know if we are sure of the exact pathway of how the disease is transmitted, as it is thought that if persons eat infected beef, they would be predisposed to developing the disease,” Dr. Richards added.
However, he is adamant that the ban should be viewed as a preventive measure. “We are being as pro-active as we are, because the NBTS wants to safeguard blood for transfusion purposes,” he said.
Responding to critics who insist that this restrictive policy does more harm than good, because blood supplies are consistently low in the island, Dr. Richards said he did not share such concerns.
“There are some 2.5 million persons living in Jamaica and at least another 2 million people having left its shores, therefore we have ample amount of potential for blood donation,” he argued.
The CJD disease is a rare, degenerative, invariably fatal brain disorder and it belongs to a family of human and animal diseases known as the transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs). Some TSEs are found in specific kinds of animals. These include bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), which is found in cows and is often referred to as ‘mad cow’ disease.