A large amount of New Zealand’s medical care depends on a steady supply of blood from volunteer donors.
It’s estimated that only 4 percent of New Zealand’s adult population currently donates blood.
Just one donation can help save the lives of up to three people.
So why are some British people exempt from giving blood in this country?
New Zealand Blood Service says it excludes some British donors because of the risk of mad cow disease infecting the blood supply.
The Ministry of Health introduced the policy in 2000, as there was a theoretical risk of donated blood products transmitting variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD).
The fatal brain-wasting disease is linked to eating beef from cattle infected with bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), also called mad cow disease.
It is thought that infected beef entered the food supply of the three banned countries during the 16-year period.
Tests have shown that some people who donated blood in Britain when they were healthy, then developed the disease after. Subsequently people who received those donated blood units down the track have developed the illness.
New Zealand Blood Service Representative said: “We now know that some people in the UK may harbour the vCJD infection but have not developed the disease. The only means of avoiding any risk of spreading vCJD by blood transfusion is to stop collecting blood donations from people who have lived in affected countries.”
The service bans donations from anyone – including New Zealanders on their OE – who lived in Britain, France or Ireland for six months or longer between 1980 and 1996. These people will be permanently deferred from donating blood in New Zealand.
Blood Service marketing manager Paul Hayes said: “The cases of vCJD in Britain linked to blood donations showed the exclusion policy was justified.”
Currently, there are no tests suitable for screening blood donations for evidence of infection with vCJD. It’s reported that there is a considerable effort being made to develop tests, but these are some years away.
Sign up to become a blood donor and give someone a second chance at life by visiting www.nzblood.co.nz/signup, or calling 0800 GIVE BLOOD.