A reader shifts the focus away from the risk of HIV among gay Americans:
What about the ban on British blood, due to fears of mad cow disease? I’ve not been able to give blood for over 10 years due to this ridiculous ban.
Another is also barred:
It’s annual Xmas blood drive time, and I’m again reminded that I can’t give, because I lived in the UK for more than three months between 1980 and 1996. (Hard not to have done so, since I was born there.) The reason is Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, better known as mad cow – a scourge which has affected 229 people in all of recorded history. British beef appears to be the vector. The net cast to prevent vCJD transmission is extremely wide, and among things it rules out just about every adult European now living in the U.S. and just about every American servicemember who was stationed in Europe during the last decade of the Cold War. That’s surely millions of people.
It really seems – on vCJD, gay sex, and other risk factors – the Red Cross uses an awfully big hammer to bury some awfully small nails. With all our medical advances, there must be better tools available today than these blanket bans.
Relatedly, Brian Resnick explains the importance of veterinarians in preventing disease in humans:
“Often, infectious diseases circulate in animals for a long time before they cause outbreaks in humans,” says Wondwossen Gebreyes, the director of Global-Health Programs and a professor of molecular epidemiology at Ohio State University. “To prevent disease in humans, we should be able to address what’s happening in the animal world and what is happening in the environment,” Gebreyes says. Human and animal health are irrevocably linked. As a veterinarian, he says, “I’ve always been interested in saving human lives.”
Seventy-five percent of newly emerging diseases are zoonotic, meaning they can be spread between animals and humans. And they wreak havoc: People fall ill having no natural defenses, and there is often no medicine to fill the gap. It’s estimated that between 1997 and 2009, the cost of these diseases amounted to $80 billion worldwide. Every year, there are 2.5 billion cases of zoonotic illnesses in humans, resulting in 2.7 million deaths.
This concept – connecting human medical and veterinary science – is called One Health. And in this framework veterinarians are the sentinels, monitoring the animal kingdom for potential threats to humans.