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Support Services: Blood Transfusion

The risks of infection from blood transfusion are now extremely low. Daily activities such as road travel are associated with much greater risk than the risks of a blood transfusion when you need it. It is estimated that for every 4,000,000 units transfused 3,999,999 people will not contract HIV. For every 4,000,000 units transfused 3,999,999 people will not contract Hepatitis C. For every 200,000 units transfused 199,999 people will not contract Hepatitis B. Bacterial infection of blood is extremely rare and is prevented by careful collection and storage of blood.

Variant Creutzfeldt Jakob Disease (vCJD) is a degenerative neurological disease caused by eating Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) contaminated meat. The possibility that blood transfusion can transmit vCJD is very low, although it now appears possible. To date one person in Ireland has developed vCJD; this person lived for several years in the U.K. and did not donate blood in Ireland. The risk that anyone that had donated blood in Ireland will develop vCJD in the future is very low. To reduce the risks of possible transmission of vCJD through transfusion from a donor who might have been infected with vCJD, the Irish Blood Transfusion Service (IBTS) has introduced a number of precautionary measures since 1999.

It is important to realise the risks of not having a necessary blood transfusion exceeds the extremely low risks of vCJD transmission by transfusion.In the Bon Secours Hospital, we have a Haemovigilance programme. This involves the Hospital Blood Transfusion Committee who oversees the policies and procedures in relation to best transfusion practice within the hospital.

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