Donating blood is an easy way to help out in the community.
According to the website of the American Red Cross, every two seconds a patient within the U.S. is in the need of blood transfusions. Reasons reach from essential surgeries and cancer treatment to chronic illnesses and traumatic injuries.
But not every willing volunteer is a good candidate for donations like whole blood, red cells, platelets or plasma.
While the importance of donations is commonly known, many people don’t know that there are certain restrictions that can ban them from being eligible donors.
Besides temporary reasons like cold and flu symptoms or the use of certain medications, travel and immigration outside the U.S. can be a permanent reason to not be able to give blood to those in need.
The American Red Cross website eliminates individuals that spent more than three months in many European countries between Jan. 1, 1980 – Dec. 31, 1996 due to the fatal brain disease variant Creutzfeld-Jacob Disease, also known as vCJD. Those countries include Great Britain.
Members of the military stationed in Germany and other countries from 1980 to 1990, for at least six months, are also not eligible to donate blood, according to the Red Cross.
For more on who is not eligible go to https://www.redcrossblood.org/donate-blood/how-to-donate/eligibility-requirements/eligibility-criteria-alphabetical/eligibility-reference-material.html.
The first known case of vCJD was described in the United Kingdom in 1996. According to information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, scientists discovered evidence that the agent responsible for the bovine spongiform encephalopathy, also known as “mad cow” disease, is connected with the outbreak of vCJD in humans.
Since vCJD can be transmitted through blood transfusion, the American Red Cross excludes certain travelers from their donation process.
With this exception, many soldiers and their family members might not be able to donate blood, even if they had already returned to the U.S. many years ago.
However, the general need for blood donations is urgent.
“The American Red Cross has a critical need for type O blood donations and urges type O donors — as well as eligible donors of all blood types — to give now to help ensure lifesaving patient care isn’t impacted this spring,” said Jan Hale, spokesperson for the American Red Cross.
While all donors always undergo a detailed screening and eligibility process, Hale recommended European travelers to check their travel dates before they waste time at the donation sight.
However, the American Red Cross was not able to give insight on how many people usually have to be turned away at the door.
“What I can tell you is that some who have traveled to countries where variant Creutzfeldt-Jacob may have been a concern, self-defer before the donation process,” she said.
The registration and screening process for all prospective donors include check of valid ID, the individual’s health history and a short physical examination.
According to Hale, the screening process is important for to guarantee the safety of the blood supply as well as blood donors.
“Blood transfusions are given to patients with compromised health,” she said. “We ask these questions to ensure that the blood products patients may receive are as safe as possible and it is safe for you to donate blood that day.”
Community members who are not able to donate but would like to help out can consider volunteering at or hosting a blood drive through the American Red Cross.
The upcoming American Red Cross blood drives in Killeen include:
All American Chevrolet at 1802 E. Central Texas Expressway from 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on June 5.
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints at 1410 S. 2nd St. from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on June 6.
and the CyberTex Institute of Technology on 2207 Florence Road from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on June 18.