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Health Canada approves removal of blood donor ban sparked by mad cow fears

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Health Canada is lifting a ban on blood donations from people who lived or travelled in the United Kingdom, Ireland or France for long periods of time in the 1980s and 1990s.

The decades-long rule was a precaution to prevent the transmission of mad cow disease through blood transfusions from people who had a higher likelihood of being exposed.

Canadian Blood Services says almost 30 years of research and surveillance has made it clear that people who weren't eligible to donate under the travel criteria can do so safely.

The agency's medical officer, Dr. Aditi Khandelwal, says lifting the ban will not impact the safety of the blood supply and will allow thousands more people to donate much-needed blood.

The news comes hours after Health Canada authorized Hema-Quebec -- which manages the blood supply in Quebec -- to remove the same ban.

The change takes effect across Canada on Dec. 4.

The United States and Australia each lifted similar bans in 2022.

Both Canadian Blood Services and Hema-Quebec said they have turned away thousands of potential blood donors whose travel in the United Kingdom and Europe decades ago disqualified them.

- This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 22, 2023.

- Canadian Press health coverage receives support through a partnership with the Canadian Medical Association. CP is solely responsible for this content.

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