New Travel Regulations Impact Local Blood Center

Attention News Desk: Press Release (for immediate release)
Michele Gassaway (650) 723-8237
Michelle Brandt (650) 723-0272

STANFORD, Calif. - Stanford Blood Center, along with blood centers throughout the U.S., will be further tightening donor restrictions related to residence in the United Kingdom (U.K.) and Europe. New guidelines issued by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will become effective in May and October 2002. Blood center officials estimate that the center will lose 4 percent of donors due to the new restrictions, which means about 1600 donors will become ineligible to donate.

As the primary supplier to five local health care facilities, Stanford Blood Center has seen blood utilization increase by about 10 percent in the last six months. Continued increases are expected with the growth of new cancer and heart disease treatment programs. The rise in hospital usage coupled with the anticipated donor loss means Stanford Blood Center has to recruit many new donors to keep up with demand, according to blood center officials.

Starting May 29, 2002, Stanford Blood Center will indefinitely defer individuals who have spent three cumulative months or more in the U.K. between 1980 and 1996. At the end of October, additional restrictions will be implemented. By phasing in the new donor restrictions, the FDA hopes to prevent life-threatening blood shortages that could result from a sudden loss of a large number of donors.

"We anticipate that the new restrictions will impact the number of donations we receive at mobile blood drives. People in the Bay Area travel a lot and many companies have additional offices in Europe," said Doreen Leith, Mobile Recruitment Supervisor.

Stanford Blood Center encourages individuals to donate as often as possible while they are eligible. If new regulations affect a donor's eligibility, the center recommends recruiting new donors to take their place. Patients will suffer if the blood center loses current donors before new ones are in place, said blood center officials. They say every donation counts. One donation can save up to three different people's lives.

If someone suspects they will be deferred due to travel or residency restrictions, Stanford Blood Center encourages them to call (888) 723-7831 to discuss his or her specific situation. Every eligible individual is encouraged to donate to help prevent blood shortages. The blood center has created a "Traveler's Club," which will permit deferred donors to continue to accumulate donation points by recruiting new donors.

"It's important that people don't automatically defer themselves when they hear about new travel restrictions. There are very specific time frames so a conversation with one of our staff to clarify eligibility is crucial. We can't afford to lose donors and we must recruit new ones," said Michele Gassaway, Community and Media Relations Coordinator.

Eligible individuals are urged to call (650) 723-7831 or toll-free (888) 723-7831 to make an appointment, learn hours of operation, and get directions to the centers. Donors should be in good health, with no cold or flu symptoms. They must also eat well prior to donation, drink fluids and present photo identification at the time of donation. The entire donation process takes approximately one hour and can help up to three different patients in need of blood. For more information or to schedule an appointment, please visit

More than 34,000 blood donations are made annually through Stanford Blood Center, a not-for-profit community blood center. Each donation is separated into platelets, plasma and red cells, and thus can help three different patients. Stanford Blood Center relies on volunteer blood donors from the community to accomplish its mission of helping patients and encourages all eligible donors to give blood.