State Health Officer Confirms West Nile Transfusion Investigation

Mississippi state health officer Dr. Ed Thompson confirmed Thursday that officials are investigating if a Mississippi woman contracted the West Nile virus through a blood transfusion. Thompson stressed there is no evidence the transfusion was the source of the infection and that she may have contracted the disease through a mosquito bite.

Thompson declined to identify the woman, her residence or where she received the transfusion. The woman received 18 units of blood during an obstetrical procedure in late July, according to Dr. Anthony A. Marfin of the CDC. Soon after the surgery, she was diagnosed with the virus.

Any stored blood from the donors used in the woman's transfusion will be destroyed as a precaution, Thompson said. The Mississippi State Department of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and the Food and Drug Administration have already identified the donors.

"Any product remaining from those donors will not be used,'' Thompson said.

Three people have died from the West Nile virus in Mississippi. Seven new cases were identified Wednesday, bringing the total number of people infected to 111, according to the State Department of Health.

Thompson said the FDA and the blood collection industry are working to make blood supplies safe, but there is no system in place to test donated blood for the West Nile virus.

"If the West Nile virus occurs the transfusion, the risk is low,'' Thompson said. "But there is no risk of acquiring West Nile virus by donating blood.''