Transfusions and Transplants Spread West Nile Virus. (Biomedicine)

Science News, April 19, 2003 | Go to article overview

Transfusions and Transplants Spread West Nile Virus. (Biomedicine)


Donated blood and organs should be screened to prevent transmission of West Nile virus, federal officials say. In addition to bites from infected mosquitoes, which is the most common route of infection in both people and animals, blood and transplanted organs can also spread the virus, two recent investigations indicate.

West Nile virus transmission has also been linked to breast-feeding, but children are less likely than older adults to get sick from the virus (http://sciencenews.org/20021019/food.asp).

Last year, the United States experienced an unprecedented 3,389 cases of human illness attributed to West Nile virus. They began on June 10 and lasted into November. In August, four people in two states became infected after receiving transplanted organs from the same donor. One of the four died.

The organ donor was infected with West Nile virus through a blood transfusion shortly before dying from an injury, Martha Iwamoto and her colleagues at CDC in Atlanta determined.

They reached this conclusion after applying two tests for West Nile virus to tissue samples from the organ donor. Tissues collected just after the donor was injured were negative for the virus, but one taken later tested positive. …

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