Japan relents on blood ban for visitors to France

31st March 2005, Comments 0 comments

TOKYO, March 31 (AFP) - Japan said Thursday it would ban blood donations from May for people who had spent any time in Britain between 1980 and 1996 due to fears over mad cow disease, but relented from imposing an similar ban expected on blood from those who had visited France.

TOKYO, March 31 (AFP) - Japan said Thursday it would ban blood donations from May for people who had spent any time in Britain between 1980 and 1996 due to fears over mad cow disease, but relented from imposing an similar ban expected on blood from those who had visited France.

The decision came after the government confirmed that the first Japanese person to die of variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD) most likely contracted the brain-wasting condition in Britain.

A government official in early March had said the ban would affect people who went to both Britain and France, but the government announced Thursday that it would only apply to Britain.

"We have reached a conclusion that the risks that the man was infected in France are quite low," said Daisaku Sato, an official of the health and welfare ministry.

"We also found that such restrictions on visitors to France would lead to a serious shortage of the blood bank," Sato said.

A Japan Red Cross survey in mid-March found that 5.5 percent of people who donated blood had been to Britain or France between 1980 and 1996.

At least 148 people died of vCJD disease in Britain. The disease has also been confirmed in smaller numbers in other European countries such as France.

The disease is believed to be caused by eating meat infected with bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), or mad cow disease.

The first Japanese victim of the disease, who died in December, spent some 24 days in the first half of 1990 in Britain when the disease was raging there and was said to have enjoyed eating local meat dishes. He spent three days in France on the same trip.

Japan in September 2001 became the only Asian country to detect mad cow in its animal herd and has since screened every cow slaughtered for its meat.

Japan, once the biggest importer of US beef, stopped buying after a mad cow case was discovered in an animal in the United States in December 2003.

The United States has been pressuring Japan to buy US beef again, with some members of Congress threatening sanctions unless Tokyo moves swiftly.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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