DEAR DR. ROACH: I lived in England in 1985-1986, during the mad cow disease outbreak. Since then, I have been ineligible to give blood. It is one of the few questions they ask. This has been 35 years and, obviously, I don’t have and have never had the disease itself. Is this still a valid reason to rule me out as a blood donor? — B.R.
ANSWER: Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease was epidemic in the United Kingdom (and to a lesser extent, Ireland and France) from 1981 to 1996. By preventing blood donation from people who lived in the U.K. for more than six months during that time period, it is estimated that 90% of future vCJD could be prevented in the U.S.
Incubation periods of 40 years have been reported for a similar disease, kuru, which is why the prohibition against blood donation remains. However, the absolute risk is very low, both to you and to the blood supply.
Blood banks must make decisions based on not only improving the safety of the blood supply, but also to improve people’s confidence that the blood supply is safe. They have also considered how many potential donors they are turning away.
DEAR DR. ROACH: A recent CAT scan to measure my aortic aneurysm (4.1 cm) showed that my prostate is 5.1 cm. That’s somewhat larger than normal. I’m 68 years old and do have some mild symptoms — only at night. Due to the pandemic, I don’t want to go to my doctor right now, and he is not seeing patients unless they are ill. Is there a standard medicine for this? Years ago, I would have tried an OTC medicine, but I have read that they do not really help (except placebo effect). What do you recommend for this, other than consulting with my primary care physician? If I call him and ask him to prescribe a standard medicine for my case, I’m sure he will. — R.O.