IBTS defends delayed information on hepatitis B infection
Episode occurred after blood donation made in ‘window period’ when virus undetectable
The hepatitis B infection of a patient, described by the IBTS as a “one in two million event”, occurred after a blood donation was made in the “window period” when the virus cannot be detected, even by the most sensitive tests available.
The Irish Blood Transfusion Service (IBTS) has defended its decision to delay releasing information about the infection of a patient with hepatitis B from a routine blood transfusion.
A senior official appeared to say the IBTS deliberately withheld news of the infection for a time during a local radio interview on Thursday.
Medical and scientific director Dr Stephen Field then hung up on the interview with KFM while he was being questioned about the release of information on the incident.
The infection, described by the IBTS as a “one in two million event”, occurred after a blood donation was made in the “window period” when the virus cannot be detected, even by the most sensitive tests available.
In the interview, Dr Field said the IBTS became aware of the case last January. It took a “long time” to investigate the issue fully, and to review the other donations received by the recipient of the infected blood.
‘We just didn’t’
Asked why it had not gone public earlier, he said: “We could have gone public earlier. We just didn’t.” Quizzed further, he said “I’m not prepared to answer these questions any further. Thank you very much, goodbye.”
A spokeswoman for the service later clarified that after it became aware of the case, samples were sent to England for analysis. Results from these tests were received in March, confirmation that the test assay had operated properly was received in May and the retesting of other donors was concluded in August.
“A full investigation has been conducted into this case. It was demonstrated that the assay performed within the expected level of sensitivity. In addition, the investigation demonstrated that all aspects of laboratory testing and donor screening were satisfactory.”
Dr Field also indicated that the infected patient no longer has hepatitis B following treatment and has “fully recovered”.