Friday 25 May 2018

HSE has known of hepatitis B case since last March

(Stock image)
(Stock image)
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

The HSE has confirmed it knew a patient had developed hepatitis B after getting a contaminated blood transfusion as early as last March.

However, it said the decision to make the case public was a matter for the Irish Blood Transfusion Service (IBTS).

The revelation is the latest twist in the case which was only made public this week by the IBTS, despite it finding out last December that one of its donors, whose donation was accepted, had hepatitis B.

The Irish Independent revealed that Health Minister Simon Harris and officials in the Department of Health -which has a patient safety office - were informed of the probable transmission in January. But no public announcement was made.

He believed there was "no ongoing risk to the blood supply or to patient safety".

The failure to pick up the virus at the time of donation was due to the fact that the donor had only contracted the infection and was in the two-week window period when it cannot be detected. Mr Harris said he was advised this was a 'one in two million event' and he was satisfied the case was "diagnosed and the matter reported in an effective and timely way".

The IBTS said it was investigating the incident until August. But the failure to make the case public raises questions due to the blood scandal involving the contamination of anti-D with hepatitis C which damaged confidence in the blood service in the 1990s.

It took two tribunals of inquiry to find out the truth of how the hepatitis C contamination, which was due to negligence, happened.

The Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA), which oversees the IBTS, confirmed it was also told on January 5 last.

The IBTS has declined to say when the transfusion took place. But the patient was unaware they had got the virus until the blood donor became ill.

If untreated and chronic the virus can cause liver damage.

The transfused patient has since been treated and appears to have cleared the virus.

Irish Independent

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