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FDA Restricts Blood Donors

Inova Blood Donor Services Fear Shortage

Beginning May 31, the eligible blood donors in the greater Washington area will be reduced significantly.

Behind this reduction is a recently issued restriction by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration prohibiting anyone from giving blood who has traveled or resided in Europe or the United Kingdom for an extended period of time beginning in 1980.

"The new restrictions will definitely affect the number of donors we have," said Terri Craddock, Director of Inova Blood Donor Services. "Because we predict we will lose a number of our regular donors, it is critical that anyone who ever thought of donating blood, should step forward to do so."

"It all has to do with the outbreak of Mad Cow Disease in Europe and Great Britain," said Dr. Anthony Torloni, Medical Director of Transfusion Services, Inova Fairfax Hospital. "Although there is no history of the disease being transferred by blood it is a cautionary measure."

FDA IS EXCLUDING anyone who has traveled or lived in the following areas for certain periods of time between given dates:

* Visited or lived in the United Kingdom for a total of three months or more between 1980 and 1996,

* Visited or lived in Europe to include Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Turkey, and the Netherlands for a total of five years or more between 1980 and the present, and

* Members of the U.S. Military, civilian military employees, and/or their dependents who have spent six months or more in Belgium, Germany or the Netherlands between 1980 and 1990 and those in the same categories who have spent six months or more in Greece, Italy, Portugal, Spain, and Turkey between 1980 and 1996.

Dr. Jeanne Lumadue, Medical Director, Inova Blood Donor Services, said, "This is particularly critical to this area with our large military population as well as government personnel that travel throughout the world on a regular basis. It will hurt us significantly."

She noted, "The FDA is taking a very cautious and proactive approach to protect the blood supply. These donors will be excluded indefinitely. However, when and if the FDA changes it restrictions we will certainly welcome them back."

Dr. Torloni explained, "There has never been a case of Mad Cow Disease being transferred by blood, this is being done to prevent any such human outbreak in the U.S."

HE ALSO NOTED that there is a human form of the disease that is not tied to eating infected meat. "It comes from a very small molecular infectious protein. But, there also is no history of it being transmitted by blood transfusion," he assured.

As a major supplier of blood to 11 hospital throughout the metropolitan Washington area, Inova Blood Donor Services is continuously in need of blood. They are sending a letter to all their donors informing them of the new restrictions.

Anyone wanting to make an appointment to donate blood or gain additional information about the restrictions may call 1-866-256-6372 or visit the web site at www.inova.org/donateblood.

More than 200 donors are needed everyday to meet area demands, said Kristin Gross, IBDS assistant director of marketing. "A single patient can use over 30 to 40 units of blood in just one hour," she explained.

The most common demand is for Type "O" because it is viewed as a universal type and is utilized in emergency situations encountered by emergency medical service teams. It is carried on their vehicles at all times.