Yes. There have been confirmed cases in North America of West Nile virus being spread through blood transfusions and organ transplants.
No. Donating blood is a safe procedure and West Nile virus cannot be transmitted in that way.
Health Canada works closely with Canadian Blood Services and Héma-Québec, the only blood operators in Canada, to ensure that West Nile virus will not be transmitted through the blood supply. In addition to screening potential donors for general health before being allowed to donate, the blood operators also test blood directly for West Nile virus.
Health Canada considers safeguarding Canada's blood system from infectious disease threats a top priority. By working closely with the medical industry and blood operators, Health Canada was able to facilitate the rapid development and implementation of the West Nile virus test.
Yes. Both Canadian Blood Services and Héma-Québec, the only blood operators in Canada, test all blood for West Nile virus before it is released into the blood supply.
Health Canada regulates blood under the Food and Drugs Act and Regulations, which are aimed at ensuring the safety of blood in Canada. Health Canada's role includes:
West Nile virus only stays in the blood of an infected person for four to seven days. After that, the person's blood contains antibodies to the virus, but does not contain the virus itself. West Nile virus infection is only spread through blood if the blood contains live virus. Donors can donate blood again after a period of eight weeks, which is the normal donation cycle. This period also permits an extra margin of safety to ensure that the virus is no longer present.
For information about the blood operators, visit their Web sites or call their toll-free numbers.
Canadian Blood Services: