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West Nile Virus Slipped Through Blood Screening Net

Repost suggests heart transplant patient infected after screening measures introduced

MONDAY, Nov. 30 (HealthDay News) -- West Nile virus still poses a threat to organ transplant and blood product recipients, despite the introduction of nationwide screening, according to a report published in the Nov. 20 issue of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Erin Stanley, of the Louisiana Department of Health in Baton Rouge, and colleagues report on a case in Louisiana in October 2008 when a heart transplant patient was diagnosed with suspected West Nile neuroinvasive disease. The researchers launched an investigation to see if blood products or the donated organ could be the source of infection.

There were two cases of probable transfusion of infected blood from the same donor which resulted in one organ recipient developing West Nile neuroinvasive disease, and another patient who received a blood transfusion developing asymptomatic West Nile virus infection, the researchers found.

"To increase the likelihood of detecting West Nile virus-positive donations, blood centers should use the most sensitive screening criteria feasible and communicate frequently with nearby blood centers on screening results during times of high West Nile virus activity in their geographic area," the authors write. "In addition, health care providers should consider West Nile neuroinvasive disease as a possible cause of neurologic complications in patients after blood transfusion or organ transplantation."

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