SAN ANTONIO -- The West Nile epidemic is spreading to areas never expected. Some cases are finding their way into blood banks.
When folks go into the South Texas Blood & Tissue Center they are asked a series of questions about their health. A number of donors who have the disease never show any symptoms and seem perfectly healthy.
“They don’t even know they’re carrying it,” said Dr. Rachel Beddard, medical director at the South Texas Blood and Tissue Center. “So far, we have seen seven cases from our donors that come in and donate,” said Dr. Beddard. “They’re feeling well and healthy in the day of donation but we test every donor and those seven donors came back positive for the West Nile virus.”
Seven cases in Bexar County a total of 89 in Texas. Those donors found out they had the virus only because their blood tested positive. Blood banks expect to see the numbers increase.
“We’re expecting (the cases) and we just take care of those donations as they come in,” said the Beddard.
Beddard said they are cautious with every blood donation. Lab technicians test donations nightly before giving them the all clear. Any blood testing positive is destroyed.
“So the recipients don’t ever receive any blood that has the West Nile virus,” said Dr. Beddard.
According to the CDC, more cases of virus will surface at least until October when the West Nile virus season should end.
Donors who are infected are then notified and so is the health department so that they may follow up with the donors.