West Nile Virus Héma-Québec confirms implementing a WNV test

Montréal, Tuesday, June 17, 2003 - It is confirmed. As announced in the press release dated June 9, Héma-Québec has developed an in-house test to detect the presence of the West Nile Virus (WNV) in donated blood. As of yesterday, June 16, a test developed by Héma-Québec's Research and Development division is being used on all blood donated in the Québec City area and in Eastern Québec. The test will be put into use starting tomorrow, June 18, in the Montréal area and in Western Québec. In other words, all blood components produced by Héma-Québec will be tested for the presence of the WNV beginning June 18. Moreover, it should also be noted that the implementation of a commercial test developed by Roche Diagnostics is still slated for July 1, 2003, or earlier.

These implementation of these two tests is part of an action plan developed by Héma-Québec to counter the effects of WNV on Québec's blood supply. Other measures include Héma-Québec's hotline for questions about the effects of WNV on blood. This hotline is available at 1 877 VNO-HÉMA (1 877 866-4362) from 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., Monday to Friday, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday and Sunday.

In addition, following the example of other North American blood suppliers, Héma-Québec nurses will ask all those donating blood an additional question to find out whether they have experienced a combination of fever and headache in the seven days previous.

Since January 2003, Héma-Québec has been stockpiling frozen plasma products. It will be possible to safely use these products beginning in July since they were collected at a time when the virus was not in circulation. Moreover, throughout the whole of June 2003, 55% of blood donor clinics will be held outside those areas where human cases of WNV were identified last summer.

The first cases of WNV transmission to humans (by mosquitoes) did not appear in Québec before August 2002. No WNV infection resulted from blood transfusions in Québec last year.

It is important for Québeckers to continue giving blood generously at the blood donor clinics that will be organized throughout Québec this summer. We would like to remind everyone that donors cannot contract WNV by giving blood. Each year the need for blood increases during the summer season. This summer, Héma-Québec hopes to welcome more than 7,000 donors per week to meet the needs of hospitals.

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.