Blood donation collected in the Le Gardeur sector of Repentigny tests positive for West Nile virus following Héma-Québec screening

Montréal, August 25, 2006 – For the first time in 2006, Héma-Québec’s West Nile virus (WNV) screening test has detected the presence of WNV in a blood donation collected in the Le Gardeur sector of Repentigny on August 22, 2006. No blood products derived from the donation have been used, and they have been subsequently destroyed. Both the donor and public health authorities have been notified. The donor concerned has been prohibited from donating blood for 56 days. At the end of this temporary prohibition period, the virus will no longer be present in the donor’s blood.

As a result of this confirmed case, Héma-Québec is screening every individual blood sample collected from August 25 to August 31, inclusively, at blood drives held in the Montréal, Laval, Montérégie and Montréal North Shore areas. In the event that no positive cases are detected among blood donors after seven days, Héma-Québec will resume its pooled sample screening method. These precautionary measures implemented by Héma-Québec are part of its action plan to counter the effects of WNV on Québec’s blood supply.

All blood donations collected by Héma-Québec are tested for WNV during the high-risk season. This result confirms once again the effectiveness of the screening test, which has been used to analyse over 550,000 donations since it was implemented in June 2003. The first blood donation tested positive for WNV following Héma-Québec screening on August 31, 2005.

It should also be noted that there were no cases of WNV infection through blood transfusion in Québec. It is not possible to contract WNV by donating blood. The detection of blood donations infected by this virus requires Héma-Québec to exclude certain donors during a given period. It is therefore important that Quebecers continue giving blood generously at the blood drives held this summer throughout Québec, at the GLOBULE Blood Donor Centres and at the GLOBULE Mobile Blood Donation Unit.

There is a constant need for blood during the summer. Héma-Québec hopes to welcome some 1,000 donors a day to meet the requirements of hospitals and to maintain the blood reserve at an optimal level. Each blood donation is necessary because it can help save up to four lives.

Furthermore, a special telephone hotline—1-877-866-4362—has been set up for individuals with questions about the effects of WNV on blood. This service is available from 9:00 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Mondays to Fridays as well as from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. on Saturdays.

Since the appearance of WNV in Québec and Canada, Héma-Québec has monitored the situation on a proactive basis in conjunction with public health authorities and its partner, Canadian Blood Services.

Created in 1998, Héma-Québec is the organization responsible for the efficient procurement of adequate quantities of optimal blood components, substitutes, human tissues and stem cells to meet the needs of all Quebecers. Héma-Québec is 1,300 employees, some 2,000 blood drives and more than 300,000 blood donors every year, 16,000 partner volunteers and 400,000 blood products delivered to hospitals in Québec annually to fulfill the need of 80,000 patients.

Give blood. Give life.


West Nile Virus – Questions and answers