American Red Cross May Lose Blood Donors Because of New Rules

New government restrictions could seriously affect the Coast's blood supply. Starting next month people who've spent at least three months in Britain from 1980 until 1996 won't be able to donate blood. The Food and Drug Administration says it's a precaution to prevent the spread of Mad Cow disease.

American Red Cross officials the regulations may leave them short on blood donors once they start asking questions of potential donors.National estimates predict anywhere from 4 percent to 11 percent of blood donors will no longer be eligible. Local American Red Cross officials say they aren't sure how the new rules will affect the donor pool on the coast.

American Red Cross board member John McFarland said "I suspect that here on the coast because such a large portion of our population is military and we are an area that does tend to travel more than the nation as a whole we may actually see a higher percentage in our population."

Red Cross officials say they are already working to make up for a potential drop in blood donations.

"If we could get some new donors in to the system and get the regular donors giving a little bit more often that will help to offset what we do expect to lose," said Liz Gaulke. "I know there are people who still want to give but at this point and time won't be able to give."

Researchers are working to find a test to screen for Mad Cow disease, but that could take some time. Until then Red Cross officials say stricter regulations on who can donate blood is the only way to keep the blood supply as safe as possible.

Under the FDA's proposal, blood banks would have to bar donors who have:

1. Spent three cumulative months or more in Britain from 1980 through 1996.

2. Spent five cumulative years or more in France from 1980 to the present.

3. Spent six months or more, as American military personnel or dependents, on bases in Northern Europe from 1980 through 1990, and elsewhere in Europe from 1980 through 1996.

4. Received a blood transfusion in Britain since 1980.

by Danielle Thomas .