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Haemophiliacs in vCJD scare

Blood transfusion

LONDON, England (CNN) -- Haemophiliacs in the UK who fear they have been exposed to plasma derived from a blood donor later found to have the human form of mad cow disease are being urged to contact their doctors.

The blood plasma is said to have been distributed only in "tiny amounts" only after the donor was found to have the new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD).

No simple test exists for vCJD and it has not been proven that the ailment can be transmitted through blood or blood products.

Health experts do not know how many UK haemophiliacs could be at risk from the vCJD infected blood, which was used before tighter controls were introduced in 1998.

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The honorary president of the Haemophilia Society, Lord Morris of Manchester, said the government was treating the issue as a matter of urgency.

"This has come as a devastating shock to the haemophiliac community who have already been stricken by HIV and Hepatitis C infection in the course of NHS treatment.

"No-one seems to know how many people may be affected, but the society is doing all it can to counsel families that have cause to believe they were affected."

Ministers announced counselling arrangements for patients and their families while efforts are made to establish whether they received the vCJD-infected treatment.

A Department of Health spokesman said: "The laboratory which produced this batch of blood products are informing doctors of the batch numbers involved so they can trace patients who will have received blood products from that batch.

"There is no simple test for vCJD and no treatment for the disease.

"Our policy is that patients who have received blood products and are concerned about the situation should approach their doctor who will be able to tell them if those products came from affected batches.

"It must be remembered that there is no evidence that CJD has ever been transmitted through blood or blood products.

"The best advice from experts is that any link between blood, blood products and the transmission of vCJD is purely theoretical.

"We are consulting with the Haemophilia Society and other patient organisations to see what they and their members feel is the best future course of action."

UK uses U.S. plasma

In 1998, the government took the step of ceasing to use UK plasma in the manufacture of blood products as a precautionary measure against the theoretical risk that vCJD can be transmitted in this way.

The Haemophilia Society has told its members that this donated plasma would have been used in 1996 and 1997 before the 1998 crackdown, when the government also required the company involved, Bio Products Laboratory, to source plasma from the U.S. and not the UK.

The society added: "We do not know exactly how many people with haemophilia may be affected by this but the company have stated that this particular donor's plasma has gone into a tiny percentage of the products distributed before 1998.

"First and foremost, we would stress that any risk of transmission of vCJD through blood products is theoretical.

"There have been no reported cases of vCJD among the haemophilia community." A group of experts has been appointed to see how the incident could be managed in the future.



RELATED STORY:
Finland bans ex-UK residents from giving blood
January 29, 2001

RELATED SITES:
UK Government
Haemophilia Society UK home page
Bio Products Laboratory

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