Late in 2006 we posted about a new question on Canada’s blood donor questionnaire and now it turns out that Ireland is following suit. Anyone who has handled monkeys or their bodily fluids will not be able to donate blood.
The reason is the same: the Simian Foamy virus.
It is noted that while the virus is common among those who handle monkeys, it does not cause any illness. However Dr. William Murphy, Medical National Director of the Irish Blood Transfusion Service states:
“But it (prevalence) is quite high and therefore professional monkey handlers have been excluded from donating.”
In addition to this news, the Irish Medical News reported another interesting bit of information. Those dealing with hemochromatosis (who are otherwise healthy and have donated within the past two years) are able to donate once again. With this genetic disease that effects more than 10,000 people in Ireland, the body absorbs and stores too much iron resulting in a necessary treatment of regular phlebotomies. A pilot scheme will open in 2007 for hemochromatosis donors in hopes of eventually screening the entire population. (For the USA, the Food and Drug Administration has always allowed those with hereditary hemochromatosis to donate blood, provided that the blood establishment follow procedures specific to their variance.)
With this in mind, we can hope that there will be improvement in the screening process for Simian Foamy virus so that those who have handled monkeys or their bodily fluids will not be eliminated as donors on that point alone.