West Nile Virus in the regions bordering Eastern Ontario

Héma-Québec takes additional precautionary measures to protect blood supplies

Montréal, August 8, 2005—After Canadian Blood Services identified West Nile Virus (WNV) in two blood donations collected in Eastern Ontario, Héma-Québec has decided to take additional precautionary measures to protect blood donations collected during blood drives held mainly in the Outaouais region.

These measures are part of its action plan, adopted a few months ago, to counter the effects of WNV on blood supply. Once a donation is confirmed to have tested positive for WNV, Héma-Québec plans to individually screen each blood sample collected in the regions most affected by WNV, as determined by regional public health directorates or the prevalence of donors infected by WNV.

To optimize the safety of its blood supply, Héma-Québec will therefore analyze individual blood samples collected during drives held over the coming days in areas bordering the Ottawa region and Eastern Ontario. As provided for in its action plan, in the case where no positive cases are detected in this area during a two-week period, Héma-Québec will resume its pooled sample screening method.

Generally used by Canadian Blood Services and other blood suppliers in North America, this procedure consists of combining the samples of six donors and carrying out a screening test on the sample pool. Enough blood can be quickly and efficiently analyzed using this procedure to meet the demand for a safe blood supply. If a sample pool is found to be WNV-positive, each donation from that pool is screened individually to find which is infected. The infected blood will then be destroyed and the blood components at issue that have not yet been transfused will be withdrawn from circulation. The corresponding donor will be informed of his or her exclusion for a period of 56 days and the infection declared to public health authorities.

According to epidemiological data on the activity of the virus, its proximity to territories where blood drives will be held and its prevalence among blood donors in the Ottawa region and Eastern Ontario, Héma-Québec is taking all available measures to ensure the safety of its blood product supplies. “We are taking these protective measures against WNV to provide patients with blood products of the highest possible quality. Also, during the summer season, each blood donation is vital because it can help save up to four lives,” stated Dr. Francine Décary, President and Chief Executive Officer of Héma-Québec.

Héma-Québec continually screens all blood donations to detect possible cases of the West Nile Virus (WNV). Furthermore, between June 1 and November 30 each year, pooled blood samples are screened. A special telephone line—1 877 VNO-HÉMA (1 877 866-4362)—has been set up for people with questions about the effects of WNV on blood.

Since the appearance of WNV in Québec and Canada, Héma-Québec monitors the situation on a continual basis and works with public health officials as well as with its partner Canadian Blood Services. It should also be noted that donors cannot contract WNV by giving blood. It is therefore important for Quebeckers to continue to give blood generously at the blood drives organized throughout Québec.
Since its inception in September 1998, Héma-Québec’s mission has been to efficiently provide adequate quantities of safe, optimal blood components, substitutes, human tissues and cord blood to meet the needs of all Quebeckers; and to provide and develop expertise, along with specialized and innovative services and products in the fields of transfusion medicine and human tissue transplantation.

This summer, bring good habits to life. Give blood. Give life.

Additional notes: Consequently, during the week of August 8, 2005, all blood collected in Hudson, Les Cèdres, Hull and Campbell’s Bay, as well as all blood collected during the week of August 15 in Gatineau, La Pêche and Saint-Clet will be individually sampled. To find out where to give blood in Québec, please visit Héma-Québec’s Web site at www.hema-quebec.qc.ca.