Héma-Québec launches 1 877 VNO-HÉMA

Montréal, Monday, June 9, 2003 - As part of its action plan to counter the effects of the West Nile Virus (WNV) on Québec's blood reserve, Héma-Québec has set up a special telephone line for people with questions about the effects of WNV on blood. Those interested can dial 1 877 VNO-HÉMA (1 877 866-4362) from 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, and from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

As in the case of other North American blood suppliers, Héma-Québec nurses will ask all those giving blood an additional question to find out whether they have experienced a fever and headache in the past seven days.

It should be noted that, since January 2003, Héma-Québec has been including frozen plasma products in its inventory. It will be possible to use these products without danger starting in the month of July since they were collected at time when the virus was not in circulation. Moreover, throughout June 2003, 55% of the blood donor clinics will be held outside the areas where human cases of WNV were identified last summer.

Héma-Québec is continuing to work on developing an in-house test to detect West Nile Virus directly in the blood of all donors. It should be noted that the commercial test developed by Roche Diagnostics is scheduled for implementation on July 1, 2003.

All of these measures are intended to ensure the safety of the blood supply. The first cases of the transmission of WNV to humans (by mosquitoes) did not appear in Quebec before August 2002. No WNV infection resulted from blood transfusions in Quebec last year.

It is important for Quebecers to continue giving blood generously as part of the 500 blood donor clinics that will be organized throughout Quebec this summer. The need for blood increases during the summer period each year. This summer, Héma-Québec plans to welcome at least 7,000 donors per week to meet the needs of hospitals. Donors cannot contract WNV by giving blood.

Héma-Québec's mission is to efficiently provide adequate quantities of safe, top-quality blood components and substitutes to meet the needs of all Quebeckers; provide and develop expertise, services, along with specialized and innovative products in the fields of transfusion medicine and human tissue transplantation.