Thousands In 3 Cities May Have Received Tainted Blood
By Verena Dobnik
NEW YORK -- Thousands of transfusion recipients in three cities are being warned that they may have received blood improperly tested for the AIDS virus and hepatitis.
The notice comes more than a year after two lab supervisors were convicted of tampering with blood tests at the New York Blood Center, the nation's largest independent blood bank.
Within the past month, the center has notified recipients in Chicago, Pittsburgh and Memphis, Tenn., about potential problems. New York area recipients were alerted two years ago.
No viral infections have been linked to blood used in transfusions in any of the cities from 1991 to 1996, center officials said Wednesday, adding that the risk of infection was very low.
"If we had thought there was a big problem, we would have done something right away," said Dr. Robert Jones, the center's president and chief executive.
Chicago, Pittsburgh and Memphis had been sending their blood samples to the Manhattan blood center for viral testing.
Through newspaper and radio announcements, the center is trying to reach an estimated 40,000 people who received blood from June 1994 to December 1996 in Chicago-area hospitals. It issued a public health announcement to transfusion recipients in Pittsburgh and Memphis last month.
In 1997, a man and woman who worked as lab managers at the Manhattan center were convicted of taking shortcuts on blood tests and then falsifying records to conceal their crimes.
An investigation found that the shortcuts affected tests for HIV, hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HTLV, a virus that has been associated with some types of leukemia.