Problem

Unsafe blood-related products

Other Names:
Risk of contracting disease through blood transfusions
Bloodborne disease transmission involving health workers
Inadequate blood donor checking
Contaminated blood donations
Incidence:
Annually there are around 85 UK haemophiliacs, infected with contaminated blood products, who develop AIDS. Between 1980 and 1985, about 1,250 French haemophiliacs were infected with the AIDS virus from blood transfusions. By 1992, 273 of these had died. Senior health officials ordered the continued use of the blood stocks even though they knew them to be contaminated. The former head of the National Blood Transfusion centre and his deputy were suspended and later sentenced to pay the equivalent of $1.8 million in compensation to victims and their families.

By 1993 in Germany 400 of 2000 haemophiliacs infected had died from AIDS due to contracting the HIV virus from contaminated blood or medication. The medical profession has been blamed for profiteering and the government for negligence in the scandal. Some victims are being paid compensation.

By 1995, half of the 20,000 hemophiliacs in the USA had been infected with HIV via improperly screened blood. A report of the Institute of Medicine states that a main cause of the failure to screen after 1983 was unwillingness of top officials in the blood products industry to spend the money required. The Food and Drug Administration did not try to make the blood products industry change, because the FDA depended on its self-serving advice.

In China in 1995 the public health ministry ordered a halt to the use of one brand of serum albumin and the destruction of all remaining stocks due to their contamination with the HIV virus. The contamination was discovered privately by a Chinese businessman and confirmed by the ministry.

In Romania and the USSR, localized outbreaks of bloodborne HIV infection occurred in infants and young children in the early 1990s as a result of the use of inadequately sterilized injection equipment or of blood or blood products which had not been screened for the HIV antibody. In India, AIDS is spread primarily through illegal blood banks, heterosexual prostitution and intravenous drug use. Between 1980 and 1987 about 360,000 people in France were infected by contaminated blood containing the hepatitis virus. Compulsory biological tests of donated blood were introduced in France in 1988, and between then and the end of 1989, a further 36,000 hepatitis infections were recorded, throwing some doubt upon the efficacy of the screening procedures. According to the American Red Cross, blood processing technology has reached a new peak of sophistication and blood transfusion is now orders of magnitude safer within the space of the past few years.

It was estimated that between 13 and 128 patients in the USA may have acquired the HIV virus from health-care workers during invasive surgical procedures during the 1980s. Around 40 health-care workers are known to have been infected at work, and a few hundred others are thought to exist.

Claim:
WHO will ban blood donations from people with Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease for fear that the disease can be transmitted via the blood, although there is no proof of this.
Counter Claim:
In 1991, WHO claimed that HIV transmission through HIV-infected blood or blood products had been virtually eliminated in industrialized countries through routine screening of donated blood. Most developing countries were also improving their screening of blood. The risk in 1993 of being infected with HIV virus in the USA is lower than 1 in 45,000. Because half of all transfusion recipients die within five years from their underlying disease, only 1 in a million develop AIDS. The risk of infection with the hepatitis virus has been reduced from 1 in 100 a couple of decades ago to about 1 in 3,500 today.
Problem Type:
E: Emanations of other problems
Date of last update
25.06.1999 – 00:00 CEST