by Cathy Grainger
There was a front-page article in the Independent last week about there being a lack of blood donors in the Pyrenees-Orientales – only 2% donate blood here as opposed to 4% nationally.
Reading the article reminded me of something I have been smarting about since we arrived in the region 16 years ago and that is, as I’m sure you’re aware, if you lived in the UK during the 1980’s, you are forbidden from giving blood due to the risk of transmission of CJD.
I’ve always given blood and , during our first summer here, saw the banners asking for donors so trotted along, set the girls up with orange juice, biscuits and puzzle books as normal, only to be told that I was “interdit”. My French wasn’t great at the time so thought I had misunderstood or filled in the form incorrectly so I went back another time, only to be told (rather gleefully I thought), that they didn’t want my infected English blood – ha ha!!
The ban arose because in the early 90’s there were 4 people who contracted CJD through blood transfusions and there is, as I understand it, no effective way of screening blood for CJD.
Clearly the ban doesn’t apply in the UK as about half the population would be forbidden from donating blood so I guess a risk was taken, but apparently there is no evidence of any new cases of CJD having been transmitted through transfusions over the last 20 years or so, largely as a result of better practices.
France isn’t the only country to ban those who have lived in the UK during that time from donating blood – the US, Australia and Ireland included, although the Irish have recently lifted their ban on the grounds that the risk is remote, practices have changed in recent years which further reduce this risk, but mostly because, given the size of the population who were previously excluded, they can expect a minimum of 10,000 more donations every year.
So the reason I’m writing this is to sound out opinion about whether a change in policy at the French blood transfusion centre would be, at least partly, the answer to the shortage of blood – not just in the PO but in France as a whole.
It’s difficult to find precise figures on the number of Brits in the PO but if it’s 20,000 and 4% donate blood, that’s 800 new donors and in France potentially 16,000 – that’s a lot of blood!
I’m not suggesting a campaign as such, but just explaining the background and asking whether others are of the same opinion.