Earlier we reported about the American Red Cross and UK NHS Blood and Transplant instituting or planning on deferral of blood donors who have traveled to Mexico, the Caribbean, or Central or South America for a short period of time.
Now the Canadian Blood Services is confirming that anyone who has travelled outside of Canada, the continental United States and Europe will now be temporarily ineligible to give blood for three weeks. This new waiting period is currently being implemented across the country and will take full effect in all of our clinics starting on Friday, February 5.
While determining what the official deferral period should be, we had asked people to postpone blood donation for at least a month after returning from travel outside these specified zones. We are officially changing our eligibility criteria to include a 21-day waiting period, to mitigate the risk of the Zika virus entering the Canadian blood supply. This period ensures enough time has passed for the virus to be eliminated from a person’s bloodstream, and begins the day a person returns to Canada.
“This new temporary deferral period will safeguard Canada’s blood supply against the Zika virus, and will also help us protect against other similar mosquito-borne viruses,” says Dr. Dana Devine, chief medical and scientific officer, Canadian Blood Services.
The 21-day waiting period also applies to cord blood and stem cell donors who have travelled to affected areas. Héma-Québec (Quebec’s blood operator) will be implementing the same change.
The risk of a Canadian donor transmitting the Zika virus to a blood recipient is very low. The mosquito that carries the virus does not live in Canada due to our colder climate. There have been very few reported cases of Zika virus infection in travellers who acquired the virus abroad.
We anticipate this ineligibility period will reduce the number of donors available to donate in the coming months. We are therefore urging Canadians to donate before they travel to help make up for the anticipated shortfall. We also urge new and current donors who have not recently travelled outside of Canada, the continental United States and Europe, to please book an appointment. New donors are critical to maintaining a healthy blood supply and ensuring patients continue to receive the safe and effective blood and blood products they need.