Skip main navigation

Military Health System

Clear Your Browser Cache

This website has recently undergone changes. Users finding unexpected concerns may care to clear their browser's cache to ensure a seamless experience.

"Mad Cow" Blood Donor Ban Lifted

Image of Graphic of blood donation from Armed Services Blood Program. Welcome back, blood donors! The Food and Drug Administration has recently updated its guidelines, and Armed Services Blood Program blood donors who were once deferred for geographic risk factors related to vCJD, commonly known as “Mad Cow” disease, or for the receipt of a blood transfusion in the U.K., France or Ireland during certain periods of time, may now be eligible to donate, provided they meet all other eligibility requirements. (Jonathon Davis, MHS)

A decades-old blood donor ban was recently lifted by the Food and Drug Administration, potentially increasing the nation's blood supply by hundreds of thousands of donors each year.

Since the 1980s, the existence of Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, referenced as vCJD and otherwise known as the "Mad Cow" disease, banned many potential donors from donating blood—in particular, those who have served in or traveled to certain countries in Europe.

In 2020, the FDA lifted the vCJD disease travel deferral for the majority of affected European countries, but it wasn't until May 2022 that it was determined to be safe enough to lift the ban for the U.K., France, and Ireland.

Now, with lifting of the ban, the Armed Services Blood Program wants to see an increase in donors with "thousands of military members and their families who had been excluded from being able to donate blood because of geographical travel or military assignment now being eligible to donate," said U.S. Navy Capt. Leslie Riggs, division chief of the ASBP.

According to the FDA, most individuals who were once deferred should now be eligible to donate blood, assuming they meet all other donor requirements.

Riggs said that "standard procedures are in place to assure that donors are healthy at the time of donation and serve as an effective safeguard against collecting blood or blood components from a donor after the onset of clinical symptoms of vCJD. Blood safety is always our top priority."

Riggs added that everyone should consider donating blood, if they are eligible.

"Blood is the most precious gift that anyone can give to another person—the gift of life," he said. "A decision to donate your blood can save a life, or even several if your blood is separated into its components—red cells, platelets and plasma— which can be used individually for patients with specific conditions."

What is the Armed Services Blood Program?

Since 1952, the ASBP has been tasked with ensuring the safety of the military's blood supply. As the official blood program of the U.S. military, the ASBP's mission is to provide quality blood products and support to military health care operations worldwide, according to Riggs. As a joint operation within the Defense Health Agency, the ASBP collects, processes, stores, transports, and distributes blood products to service members, their families, retirees, and veterans worldwide.

Seventy-two years ago, the ASBP was established under President Harry Truman and became a fully operational blood program by 1962. "Our decades-long mission of providing lifesaving support for our warfighters carries on today," said Riggs. Along with the American Red Cross, America's Blood Centers, and the Blood Centers of America, the ASBP is one of four organizations that ensure the nation has a safe blood supply.

If you are interested in donating blood or checking your eligibility, visit militaryblood.dod.mil to locate a military blood donor center near you.

You also may be interested in...

Topic
Apr 2, 2024

Can I Donate

Learn more about your eligibility to donate blood.

Topic
Apr 2, 2024

Armed Services Blood Program

The Armed Services Blood Program provides quality blood products for service members, veterans and their families in both peace and war. As a joint operation among the military services (Army, Navy, Air Force), the ASBP has many components working together to collect, process, store, distribute, and transfuse blood worldwide.

Topic
Mar 7, 2024

Be A Donor

The ASBP is a program comprised of dedicated men and women; service members, family members, retirees, veterans, federal employees, and others with a commitment to saving lives worldwide. Our donors are the heart of our program. Without donors taking the time to come in and donate and on a regular basis, the ASBP cannot stand ready for our mission ...

Article Around MHS
Jan 22, 2024

National Blood Donor Month highlights Vital Need for Donations

January is National Blood Donor Month (DHA Graphic)

January is National Blood Donor Month, an observance to encourage people to consider donating blood and platelets. Because of the holidays, inclement weather, and cold and flu season, the winter months often experience reduced donations and an increased risk for blood shortages for many health care facilities.

Article
Jan 10, 2024

The Armed Services Blood Program Thanks Supporters During National Blood Donor Month

In a 1969 proclamation signed by President Richard Nixon, January was designated as National Blood Donor Month to create a time to thank those who have donated throughout the past year and to address the decrease in donations during the winter season. The Armed Services Blood Program is grateful for all the support it has received from donors and supporters in 2023.  (credit: Swati Agane)

In a 1969 proclamation signed by President Richard Nixon, January was designated as National Blood Donor Month to create a time to thank those who have donated throughout the past year and to address the decrease in donations during the winter season. The Armed Services Blood Program (ASBP) is grateful for all the support it has received from donors ...

Infographic
Nov 22, 2023

ASBP - Holiday Blood Donor (Army)

Give one priceless gift to Change Lives. Save Lives. Donate Blood.

During the holiday and winter season, donations historically decrease – due to travel, seasonal illness, and weather conditions - but the need for blood remains the same. This holiday, take time to give ONE priceless gift of life by donating blood. Find a location or drive here: militarydonor.com #donateblood #ChangeLivesSaveLives

Skip subpage navigation
Refine your search
Last Updated: July 11, 2023
Follow us on Instagram Follow us on LinkedIn Follow us on Facebook Follow us on X Follow us on YouTube Sign up on GovDelivery