West Nile Virus Testing Begins at New York Blood Center

NEW YORK -- On July 1, 2003, New York Blood Center will begin testing all donated blood for West Nile Virus (WNV) using state-of-the-art Nucleic Acid Testing (NAT). The testing will take place at the blood center's newly outfitted lab in New Brunswick, N.J.

"Last summer our nation saw the largest epidemic of WNV ever recorded with over 4,000 cases between May and December. Physicians also discovered that some 60 WNV cases were transmitted via blood transfusion. But the good news is that much has been done to prepare for another WNV outbreak, including the development and implementation of this new detection test in record time," explained Dr. Robert Jones, president and CEO of the New York Blood Center.

"No one has a crystal ball or can predict if this year will see another WNV outbreak. But this new test, which directly detects WNV genetic material and is similar to testing methodology for HIV and hepatitis C, will bring a new level of safety to the blood supply," added Jones.

The threat of a WNV outbreak and any resulting increase in blood donor deferrals, however, falls hard on the heels of the SARS outbreak, which has deferred donors who have traveled to Toronto, Taiwan, Hong Kong and mainland China or have been exposed to people with SARS. Also, these deferrals are just one year after last summer's ban on donors who have spent considerable time in Europe due to fears about transmitting mad cow disease.

"We are very concerned about the overall availability of blood this summer. We already had to issue an appeal for donors earlier this month due to a low inventory of Rh negative blood. We simply must attract new and lapsed donors to offset those who will legitimately be deferred from donating so we have a safe and adequate blood supply," emphasized Jones. "And donations we receive in the next few weeks will provide a true safety net or insurance policy for hospital patients in need of life-saving transfusions this summer."

Patients in close to 200 New York and New Jersey hospitals rely on New York Blood Center to deliver over 2,000 donations daily to meet their transfusion requirements. Volunteer donors must be at least age 17, weigh a minimum of 110 pounds and be in good general health. Donors receive a free mini medical exam including having their pulse, temperature, iron count and blood pressure checked. For a donation appointment in New York City, Long Island, the Hudson Valley and northern and central New Jersey, call New York Blood Center at (800) 933-BLOOD or visit www.nybloodcenter.org.

New York Blood Center is one of the nation's largest non-profit, community-based blood centers. With the support of five regional operations, New York Blood Center has been providing blood transfusion products and services to patients in New York and New Jersey hospitals since 1964. New York Blood Center is also home to the world-renown Lindsley F. Kimball Research Institute and the National Cord Blood Program, the nation's largest umbilical cord blood bank.

Source: New York Blood Center