British Soldiers, Civilian Contractors Undergo HIV, Hepatitis C Screenings After Receiving Blood That Was Not Properly Screened
Eighteen British soldiers and six civilian contractors who received donated blood from the U.S. Department of Defense following injuries in either Iraq or Afghanistan are being tested for HIV, hepatitis and other infections because the blood had not been properly screened, London's Guardian reports.
According to the Guardian, DOD had not tested the donors after the blood had been given to the British personnel. The soldiers and contractors received U.S. blood because they were treated at U.S. field hospitals, according to the United Kingdom's Ministry of Defence. All of the soldiers have been contacted (Norton-Taylor, Guardian, 1/11). The U.K. Health Protection Agency has alerted the general practitioners of the six civilian contractors about the incident; however, it is unclear whether the GPs have alerted the recipients.
The recipients are being offered counseling and testing for HIV, hepatitis C and other diseases, according to the PA/Google.com. According to DOD, the blood donors have tested negative for HIV and hepatitis C. U.K. Defence Minister Derek Twigg said that the soldiers "almost certainly" would have died if they had not received the transfusions. He added that the risk of infection is "low" but that the situation is being taken "extremely seriously" (PA/Google.com, 1/11). The error, which was discovered last month, likely is the result of "poor record keeping," according to the U.K. Ministry of Defence.
A spokesperson for DOD said the department does not have the resources or time to properly screen blood donors during combat situations, the Guardian reports (Guardian, 1/11). U.K. Defence Secretary Des Brown said the ministry "acted quickly and promptly to establish who might be involved" after learning about the error.
The error drew criticism from hemophiliacs who contracted HIV or hepatitis C after receiving contaminated blood in the late 1970s and 1980s, the Yorkshire Post reports. Chris James, CEO of the Haemophilia Society, said it was "extremely worrying" that the soldiers and contractors had been exposed to an "unacceptable" risk of contracting HIV and hepatitis C (Yorkshire Post, 1/11).