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Thursday, 28 November, 2002, 20:24 GMT
Concern over CJD blood donor
The blood donor developed vCJD two years ago
Hundreds of haemophiliacs in Scotland and Northern Ireland have been told they may have been treated with blood products from a donor who developed variant Creutzfeld-Jacob Disease (vCJD).

It is understood that the person at the centre of the scare made two donations in 1986 and 1987 and developed vCJD two years ago.

Health agencies in Scotland have written to about 300 patients who may have been treated with plasma from the donations and offered them counselling.

There is no diagnostic test for the incurable brain disease vCJD which has, so far, killed 117 people in Britain.


There is no evidence anywhere in the world that either classic or variant CJD has been transmitted by blood transfusion

Scottish Executive spokesman
On Wednesday, the Scottish Executive, Haemophilia Centres in Scotland and the Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service issued a joint statement confirming that a donor was found to have vCJD.

Professor Ian Franklin, Medical Director of the Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service (SNBTS), said there should be no cause for alarm.

"There is still no evidence anywhere in the world that either classic or variant CJD has been transmitted by blood transfusion or use of blood products between humans," he said.

"Despite this, the UK blood services are taking a number of precautionary measures."

'Too early to tell'

Professor Franklin said it was unlikely to be an isolated case.

"How many we get will very much depend on how large the epidemic of vCJD becomes," he said.

"The current evidence seems to be that the feared increase isn't actual happening, but I think it is too early to tell."

He added that plasma has been imported from the USA and Germany for the past four years as a precaution against vCJD for the manufacture of plasma products such as immunoglobulin, albumin and clotting factors.

Brain
vCJD is an incurable brain disease
A spokesman for the executive said the health department "very much regrets any concern caused amongst haemophilia patients by this incident".

He said: "The department fully supported the desire of the Scottish and Northern Ireland Haemophilia Directors and SNBTS to inform relevant patients of the incident."

The spokesman said this decision was based on the fact that the CJD incidents panel could not yet "provide definitive advice on the management of incidents involving clotting factor concentrates, and in particular what patients should be told".

He added: "Haemophilia patients should remember that there is no evidence anywhere in the world that either classic or variant CJD has been transmitted by blood transfusion or use of blood products between humans."


Unfortunately in the haemophilia community letters like these are not going to be uncommon

Bruce Norvel
haemophiliac
Ken Fullerton, medical director of Belfast City Hospital, said only a "very small number" of haemophiliacs in Northern Ireland had been exposed to the suspect batch of clotting factor.

He reinforced the message that there was no evidence anywhere in the world that variant CJD could be transmitted by blood or blood products.

Haemophiliac Bruce Norvel of the Black Isle said he had received a letter warning him there was "a theoretical risk" that he may have been treated with blood products from a CJD sufferer.

Mr Norvel, who contracted hepatitis C from infected blood, said: "I was told to contact my haemophilia centre to find out if I was one of the individuals who had received that blood.

Warning letters

"Fortunately in my case I wasn't.

"Unfortunately in the haemophilia community letters like these are not going to be uncommon.

"As diseases appear in the donor population, more of these letters are going to come forward."

Phyllis McLeod, of Wemyss Bay, contracted hepatitis C from a blood transfusion in 1979 and also received one of the CJD warning letters.

She said she asked medics two years ago if there was a risk that she may have CJD.

"The answer I got was 'yes, there is a possible risk, but would you really want to know?'," she said.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Health correspondent Eleanor Bradford
"The Blood Transfusion Service is reassuring patients"
Professor Ian Franklin
Medical Director of the Scottish Blood Transfusion Service: "There is no test and we don't know what the exact risk is"
Phyllis McLeod, hepatitus C sufferer:
"Why did they sit on this for so long?"

CJD

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See also:

30 Oct 02 | Health
01 Nov 02 | England
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