Swiss people who have spent time in Britain are to be banned from donating blood in Switzerland over fears that supplies could be contaminated by blood containing the human strain of mad cow disease.
The ban was confirmed on Thursday by the director of the blood transfusion service of the Swiss Red Cross, Rudolf Schwabe. "The measure is not based on a real threat now," he said, "but it is a precaution for the future."
Nearly 80 people in Britain have died from so-called new-variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD), probably contracted after consuming meat from cattle infected with mad cow disease - or BSE.
The ban applies to people who have spent at least six months in Britain. Schwabe told swissinfo that he expected it would affect about 2,000 people.
"We estimate that a maximum of 2,000 donors will be affected. We have already introduced this measure in Bern, where approximately 0.5 per cent of the donors were affected."
Ten blood donors were also turned away in Lucerne because they had stayed in Britain for more than six months.
No cases of the new form of CJD have been reported in Switzerland. However, the federal veterinary office called on the government last week to ban the use of animal meal in all livestock feed in a bid to wipe out BSE among cattle in Switzerland.
The disease is caused by malformed proteins, known as "prions", which damage brain tissue, leading to mental instability and death.
Switzerland is the first country in Europe to introduce a ban on blood donations, and no limit had been placed on how long it will remain in place.