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Canadian Blood Services Introduces New Deferral Policy as Precautionary Measure Against SARS

Ottawa, April 10, 2003 – Canadian Blood Services has introduced a deferral policy as a precautionary measure, to protect the blood system from Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). The deferral policy instituted by Canadian Blood Services is being taken to protect the blood supply against the theoretical risk of SARS.

“There is no scientific evidence that SARS can be transmitted by blood, and it is highly unlikely because of the respiratory nature of the virus. This policy has been introduced purely as a precautionary measure because of a theoretical risk, rather than a real risk,” said Dr. Graham Sher, Chief Executive Officer of Canadian Blood Services.

Beginning April 10, 2003, all donors presenting at clinics will be questioned regarding travel history outside of Canada or the U.S. Donors who have traveled to Singapore, Taiwan, Vietnam, and China, including Hong Kong Special Administrative Region will be deferred for 14 days following the date of departure from the affected areas.

Donors presenting at blood donation clinics in Canada who answer affirmatively when questioned about whether they have recently been in a quarantine-declared facility in Canada, will be deferred for 14 days following their last visit. Donors who have been advised to place themselves under quarantine will be deferred until the time they are no more considered to be at risk of acquiring SARS. Information on the affected areas outside of Canada and quarantine-declared facilities in Canada will be updated daily.

“We understand that this is an unsettling time, but it is important that people continue to visit our blood clinics and donate regularly. There is no risk of developing SARS from donating and Canadians should keep in mind that it is only healthy people who attend blood clinics since those with symptoms of any illness are not permitted to donate blood. We even take the temperature of every donor before they are permitted to proceed with their donation,” added Dr. Sher.

As per our standard operating procedures, blood donors are also asked to advise Canadian Blood Services of any illness they develop over the seven days following their donation. Any blood donors who report illness in the seven days after making their donations will have their blood withdrawn from the system. Those donors will be permitted to donate again following the routine 56-day waiting period.

Canadian Blood Services is a national, not-for-profit charitable organization that manages the blood supply in all provinces and territories outside of Quebec and operates the country’s Unrelated Bone Marrow Donor Registry. Canadian Blood Services operates 40 permanent collection sites and more than 10,000 donor clinics annually. For more information, please visit our Web site at www.bloodservices.ca or call 1-888-2DONATE.

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