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DETROIT -- The ongoing outbreak of West Nile virus (WNV) infections in the United States, as well as the recently reported illnesses among four recipients of organ transplants from a single donor which may have been due to WNV, have raised concern that WNV could be transmitted through blood transfusion. The donors of the blood transfused to the organ donor prior to her death are being studied for evidence of WNV. However, no cases of WNV attributed to transfusion of blood or blood products have been proven to date in the United States or elsewhere. Available data indicate a theoretical, but extremely low, risk of WNV transmission from a blood transfusion when a blood transfusion is medically indicated; the benefits far outweigh the risks of such a transfusion, including any theoretical risk of WNV infection.
There has been a long practice of screening blood donors for symptoms of illness. With the outbreak of West Nile Virus, particular care has been taken to be on the alert for flu like symptoms (i.e., fever, nausea, vomiting) that could indicate the virus. Potential donors showing signs of illness are turned away; those who become ill after giving blood are asked to call the Red Cross and report their symptoms.
Giving blood remains essential. You cannot get West Nile virus from donating blood. Southeastern Michigan is on an emergency blood appeal and the need for blood is urgent. It is important that all eligible individuals come forward to donate at this time. To donate blood you must be 17 years of age, weigh at least 110 pounds and in general good health. To schedule and appointment to donate, call 1-800-GIVE LIFE.