Blood donation: Australia lifts mad cow disease ban today

More than two decades later, people who were in the United Kingdom at the time of the ‘mad cow disease’ outbreak can donate blood in Australia.

From December 2000, anyone who spent a total of six months or more in the UK between 1980 and 1996 was banned from donating blood.

This was a precautionary measure in response to the outbreak of mad cow disease in the UK and concerns about the risk of contracting the human variant of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, a deadly disease with a long incubation period and a lack of a screening test to identify carriers.

The ban was lifted on Monday following the approval of the Therapeutic Goods Administration after a thorough risk assessment.

This change means about 18,000 more people will be able to donate blood.

This comes as Australia’s blood supply continues to struggle to keep up with demand, with Lifeblood calling for blood donations.

In a typical week, 33,000 donations are needed. About a third of these usually come from donors in New South Wales.

All blood types are required, but the need for O-negative donors is especially high – the universal blood type used in emergencies.

The lifting of the ban is expected to increase calls for more blood donation bans.

Recently there has been an attempt to allow bisexual, gay and trans women to donate.

This group is prohibited from donating blood in Australia if they have had sex with men within the past three months.

To make a donation visit or call your local clinic

Originally published as UK blood donation ban lifted during ‘mad cow outbreak’