Tainted Blood Infection

Monday, October 25, 2010 - 9:15am

CDC confirms man contracted HIV from 2008 transfusion.

He thought he was getting a new lease on life: a new kidney.

Instead a Colorado transplant patient got HIV through a blood transfusion in August 2008.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the Missouri man who donated the blood lied on the questionnaire about his sex life.

The CDC says it's the first known case of HIV transmission through a blood transfusion in eight years.

"I was horrified," Dr. Joe Chaffin, medical director at Bonfils Blood Center, said.

Bonfils has nothing to do with the incident and Chaffin agreed to speak to help us understand how the system works.

"I would bet that any blood banker that you talk to in the world is horrified today. This is our worst nightmare. No one ever wants this to happen and this is what we work our lives for to try and keep this from happening," Chaffin said.

The CDC says that getting the virus from blood transfusions remains exceedingly rare, estimating the risk of it happening to be about 1 in 1.5 million.

Chaffin says every blood center in the country does extensive testing.

"Part of what we do, in addition to asking them the question, the questions about high-risk activity, is we also do a mini-physical exam. And the majority of people in early HIV infection will have cold symptoms basically, and we often will pick up we have the potential anyway to pick up someone HIV-infected," Chaffin said.

But he says you can't safeguard against lying and that's what the CDC says the Missouri donor did on his questionnaire.

Every blood center has donors fill out questionnaires every time they donate.

The FDA mandates 48 universal or standardized questions.

Some blood centers ask more.

According to the CDC, in June 2008, the donor who's only been identified as a man in his 40s, donated blood like he's done a number of times before.

The CDC says in his questionnaire, he didn't report any HIV risk factors and his blood tested negative for the disease.

In November 2008, when donating again, HIV was found.

In a later interview, the married man said he had sex outside his marriage with both men and women, including just before his June 2008 donation.

He admitted he was often drunk and it was often with people he didn't know.

The current testing can't detect HIV early, in the first 10 days of the disease.

"There are things that are being researched right now that there is potential in the future for the elimination of that window period," Chaffin said.

Experts say there is no cause for alarm.

This is very much an isolated incident.

"There's never been a better time, a safer time to get a blood transfusion," Chaffin said.

The name of the patient has not been released and most of this case is covered by patient privacy laws.

The questioned donor's blood products were also given to an Arkansas patient who died of heart disease two days after getting a transfusion during a mid-2008 surgery.

The CDC says it's unknown if that patient contracted HIV.

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