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Substantial Percentage Of West Nile Cases Being Confirmed by Blood Banks

Updated: Saturday, August 3 2013, 09:47 PM CDT

At The Blood Center of Central Texas, they have a couple of messages regarding West Nile.  For potential blood recipients, they want you to know that all donations are being tested for West Nile.  For potential blood donors, they want you to know that this is not the preferred way for you to be tested for West Nile.

So far this year, 89 people in Texas have found out they have West Nile, only because their donated blood tested positive for the disease.  As of September 4th, the Department of State Health Services in Texas reported a total of 1,013 West Nile cases.  If you do the math, that means almost nine percent of the West Nile cases have been discovered by tests performed on donated blood.

Andrea Lloyd, with The Blood Center of Central Texas explains what happens in those cases: “It is quarantined, it is reported and then it is discarded, so it never even makes it into the hospital”.  Lloyd assures that every gift of blood here is tested for 14 different diseases, including West Nile. 

Up to now, we have been obsessed with mosquitoes, and rightfully so.  Almost 100 percent of the time, the pests are the transmitters.  But According to the The National Center for Biotechnology Information, which is part of the National institutes of Health, it has been proven in the past that West Nile can be acquired through a blood transfusion.  Scientists identified that finding as having “important implications for blood safety”.  Because of that real concern, donated blood has been tested for the virus since 2003.  But just as with any other blood-borne ailment, health professionals are quick to insist that blood donors who have any West Nile symptoms or suspicions absolutely shouldn’t rely on the donation lab to diagnose them. 

Andrea Lloyd: “If they feel like they have symptoms, they’re not feeling well…don’t come to us.  Go to your physician; see a health care provider…that’s the best way.  We are a donation center.  We are not a testing center.”

In fact, getting a positive West Nile result from the blood bank instead of the doctor’s office could put you in real danger.  Time is of the essence for those who are infected; and donors who test positive are notified, not by phone, but by snail mail. 

Health officials urge anyone who is donating blood to carefully and honestly answer the questions on the donor pre-screening forms.

By Jason Wheeler.Substantial Percentage Of West Nile Cases Being Confirmed by Blood Banks


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