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FAQ: Blood Donation & Organ Transplant

Can I get infected with West Nile virus by donating blood?

No. You cannot get West Nile virus by donating blood.

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Can I get infected with West Nile virus by receiving a blood transfusion?

Yes, but it is unlikely. A small number of West Nile virus infections acquired from blood transfusions have been reported. However, blood collection agencies have been screening all donated blood for West Nile virus since 2003 to minimize this risk.

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Is donated blood tested for West Nile virus?

Yes. All donated blood is tested for West Nile virus. Any blood product found to be infected with West Nile virus is removed from the blood supply.

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If you have been diagnosed with West Nile virus by your doctor, you should not donate blood for 120 days. If you are diagnosed shortly after giving blood, you should tell your blood center. Donation centers try to ensure that donors who recently had West Nile virus do not give blood for 120 days. Let the center know if you have had a West Nile virus infection. They will help you decide if it is safe for you to donate.

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I recently had a transfusion. Should I be concerned about getting infected with West Nile virus?

If you recently had a transfusion, you should be aware of the very small risk for West Nile virus infection. This risk may be higher during the summer when West Nile virus is most likely to infect blood donors. You should contact your doctor if you think you have symptoms caused by West Nile virus or other concerns.

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Can I be treated if I get West Nile virus disease after receiving blood?

There are no specific medicines that can treat West Nile virus infection. You should contact your doctor if you think you have symptoms of West Nile virus. They may be able to give you medicine to help lessen some of your symptoms.

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Can I get West Nile virus infection from a transplanted organ?

Yes, it is possible and a few cases have been documented. The risk of getting West Nile virus from an organ is not known and likely varies. The number of West Nile virus cases in a year, the time of year, and where the organ donor lives can impact your chance of getting West Nile virus from a transplanted organ.

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Are organ donors tested for West Nile virus?

Unlike blood donors, organ donors do not have to be tested for West Nile virus. However, some centers do test organ donors for West Nile virus while others do not. Organ donors might not be tested because of the time it may take to get results. In addition, the current tests for West Nile virus may not work well for all organ donors.

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Can I be an organ or tissue donor if I was previously infected with West Nile virus?

You can still become an organ or tissue donor if you have had West Nile virus infection in the past. A small number of patients have been infected with West Nile virus from a transplanted organ. However, those organs came from donors who were infected with West Nile virus days to weeks (not month or years) before their donation. Currently, most organs are not screened for West Nile virus. This may change as more information becomes known.

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Will I get very ill if I get West Nile virus infection after having a transplant?

The risk of a transplant patient getting very ill from West Nile virus is not known. One study of transplant patients found less than 1 in 100 infected persons get very ill. This is similar to people who have not had a transplant. A second study found that 1 in 40 persons infected with West Nile virus after a transplant got severe disease. The chance of getting West Nile virus disease may depend on your age, medicines, other conditions, and when your organ was transplanted.

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Can I be treated if I get West Nile virus disease after receiving blood?

There are no specific medicines that can treat West Nile virus infection. You should contact your doctor if you think you have symptoms of West Nile virus. They may be able to give you medicine to help lessen some of your symptoms.

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