New procedure for Héma-Québec West Nile virus screening tests

Montréal, March 23, 2005— Héma-Québec has just received authorization from Health Canada to stop systematic screening for West Nile virus (WNV) in blood donations made between December 1 and May 31 of each year. This year, this measure will exceptionally be in force from April 4 to May 31 inclusively.

According to epidemiological data, there is no risk of WNV during this period in Québec and Canada. This application to Health Canada for authorization to suspend screening for a specified period each year was made by Héma-Québec after an analysis of the risks associated with WNV and after consultation with Héma-Québec’s various advisory committees of the Board of Directors as well as the Hemovigilance Committee.

An additional question will be asked of all donors to identify and target those who have travelled outside of Canada during the 56-day period prior to their attendance at a blood drive or a Globule blood donor centre. The blood donations from these donors who may have been exposed to the virus will continue to be tested and screened for WNV. By adopting those measures, Héma-Québec efficiently ensures a safe supply of blood components without losing donors. Héma-Québec will resume WNV screening on all blood donations made between June 1 and November 30 of every year.

As was the case during the summer of 2003, no cases of WNV were detected in any blood donations during 2004. We should emphasize that you cannot contract WNV by donating blood. It is extremely important for Quebeckers to continue to give blood generously at the blood drives organized throughout Québec.

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