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Malaria questions and answers

Policy changes

Why did the malaria policy change on April 2, 2007?

Was the April 2, 2007 policy change based on safety?

Why were you collecting blood from donors who have had malaria or spent time in a risk zone?

About malaria policy criteria

Why don’t you test for malaria?

What if I take anti-malarial drugs to protect myself while I'm in a malaria-risk zone?

Why is the criteria based on the length of time a person spends in a malaria-risk zone?

How do I know if an area is at risk for malaria?

Where can I get more information about your malaria policy?

If you have had malaria or spent time in a malaria risk zone

I have fully recovered from malaria so why can’t I donate blood?

What should I do if I plan on travelling in the future?

I think I may be ineligible to donate blood, but I have a previously-booked appointment coming up. Should I still go?

Are there other ways I can support the blood system and patients in Canada?

Media questions and answers

How do you determine which areas or countries are affected by malaria?

Why aren't you collecting blood from people who have had malaria, when you did so in the past?

Why doesn't Canadian Blood Services test for malaria?

How many people will not be able to give blood (either temporarily or indefinitely) due to malaria exposure?



Policy changes

Why did the malaria policy change on April 2, 2007?

Donated blood is separated into three components: red blood cells, platelets and plasma. Red blood cells and platelets are at risk of being exposed to the malarial parasite. If a donor has had malaria or spent time in a malaria-risk zone, only their plasma can be used — and the red blood cells and platelets must be removed from the donation. This removal process must always be done for donors who have had malaria; and for a temporary period for donors who have spent time in a malaria-risk zone.

Collecting blood but using only one of the three components is not the best use of your donation, nor is it the best way of operating our not-for-profit organization. Therefore, we discontinued this process beginning April 2, 2007 for donors who have had malaria or spent time in malaria-risk zones. We now only ask these donors to donate blood when all three of their blood components can be used.

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Was the April 2, 2007 policy change based on safety?

The policy change was not due to any increase in risk to the blood system. We are one of the safest blood systems in the world. We want to make the most out of every donation, and become more efficient as a not-for-profit organization. The policy change will also enable us to make better use of public healthcare dollars.

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Why were you collecting blood from donors who have had malaria or spent time in a risk zone?

Extracting the plasma from blood donations of people who have had malaria or who have been in malaria-risk zones was a way to help us ensure a stable supply of plasma for patients in need. However, we are now developing more efficient plans to collect plasma for the same purpose.

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About malaria policy criteria

Why don’t you test for malaria?

To date, there is no test available in Canada to screen blood donors for malaria. In the absence of an available test, we rely on thorough donor screening and health assessments to protect the blood system from malaria.

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What if I take anti-malarial drugs to protect myself while I'm in a malaria-risk zone?

The malaria policy applies to all donors, even if they have taken anti-malarial medication. Some medications are believed to mask malarial symptoms for a period of time, thereby prolonging the onset of the disease. It is possible to travel in zones where there are medication-resistant strains of malaria.

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Why is the criteria based on the length of time a person spends in a malaria-risk zone?

The longer a person stays in a malaria-risk zone, the more likely they are to come in contact with the disease. We take a precautionary approach and implement a lengthier ineligibility period for individuals who have spent 6 or more consecutive months in a malaria-risk zone.

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How do I know if an area is at risk for malaria?

Our web section on ‘malaria deferrals’ provides you with a list of malaria-risk zones. This list should be used as a reference guide ONLY! Please remember that the information provided in this list is subject to change and your final eligibility rests with your screening nurse at the clinic. To view a list of malaria-risk zones, click here.

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Where can I get more information about your malaria policy?

Here is how you can learn more about our malaria policy:

  • Consult one of our screening nurses at your local clinic,
  • E-mail your questions to feedback@blood.ca, or
  • Call 1 888 2 DONATE (1-888-236-6283).

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If you have had malaria or spent time in a malaria-risk zone

I have fully recovered from malaria so why can’t I donate blood?

Despite a full recovery from malaria, there remains a risk that a donor may still be carrying the malarial parasite in their red blood cells and platelets. As a safety precaution, we have been removing red blood cells and platelets from your blood donation and only using the plasma. This removal process must always be done for donors who have had malaria, and temporarily for donors who have spent time in malaria-risk zones.

On April 2, 2007, we will discontinue collecting blood from donors who have had malaria (and who have spent time in malaria-risk zones) unless we can use all three blood components. This means we are no longer able to collect blood from a donor who has had malaria.

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What should I do if I plan on travelling in the future?

If you have been temporarily ineligible to donate blood because of our malaria policy, and your waiting period has ended, we encourage you to consider donating blood prior to your next travel engagement. This way, you may donate blood and not be affected by the malaria policy.

Please note: Some immunizations that are required prior to overseas travel can also impact your eligibility to donate blood. For eligibility information and to book an appointment, call us at 1 888 2 DONATE (1-888-236-6283).

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I think I may be ineligible to donate blood, but I have a previously-booked appointment coming up. Should I still go?

If you have an appointment coming up that falls within your waiting period, we will cancel it on your behalf. If it falls after the waiting period, please attend as scheduled. If you are not sure, feel free to call us at 1 888 2 DONATE
(1-888-236-6283.

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Are there other ways I can support the blood system and patients in Canada?

Yes! You can continue to support your blood system and patients in need in the following ways:

Become a volunteer
Many people who are unable to donate blood give their time to save lives. Read more.

Join the Unrelated Bone Marrow Donor Registry.
Because circumstances surrounding bone marrow transplants are different than those for blood transfusions, you may be eligible to join the Registry. In particular, the Registry is looking for healthy individuals between ages 17 and 50, and there is an important need for people from diverse ethnic backgrounds. Join now.

Encourage others to donate blood, plasma, platelets or bone marrow.
Promote the need for blood, plasma, platelets and bone marrow donation to all your friends, family and peers! If you are not sure how to do this, or you have some great ideas, we would be more than happy to work with you! Contact your local Canadian Blood Services office to learn more. For a list of our locations, click here.

Donate blood for research
If you are a resident of the Vancouver (British Columbia) area, you may qualify to donate blood for research! Read more.

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Media questions and answers

How do you determine which areas or countries are affected by malaria?

Canadian Blood Services uses a list from the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) as the basis for our list of malaria endemic areas. However, we do edit the list for clarity. For example, a malaria risk area may be described by the CDC as being "in northern areas only". Where the CDC is not precise, we expand our criteria to include the whole state, province or, in some cases, the country.

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Why aren't you collecting blood from people who have had malaria, when you did so in the past?

Donated blood is separated into three components: red blood cells, platelets and plasma. Red blood cells and platelets are at risk of being exposed to the malarial parasite. Therefore, if a donor has had malaria or spent time in a malaria-risk zone, only their plasma can be used - and the red blood cells and platelets must be removed from the donation. So that we can use their blood, this removal process must always be done for donors who have had malaria; and for a temporary period for donors who have spent time in a malaria-risk zone.

Collecting blood but using only one of the three components is not the best use of your donation, nor is it the best way of operating our not-for-profit organization. On April 2, 2007, we discontinued this process for donors who have had malaria or spent time in malaria-risk zones. Instead, we will only ask these donors to donate blood when all three of their blood components can be used.


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Why doesn't Canadian Blood Services test for malaria?

Canadian Blood Services does not test for malaria as currently there is no screening test approved by our regulator, Health Canada. In the absence of an approved test, we rely on thorough donor screening and health assessments to protect the blood system from malaria.

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How many people will not be able to give blood (either temporarily or indefinitely) due to malaria exposure?

While we cannot say for certain how many donors will be affected, we are estimating approximately 40,000 annually, based on the number of donors who were temporarily ineligible (due to potential exposure to malaria) in 2006.

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