A nationwide investigation is underway to determine whether or not a Georgia organ donor transmitted the West Nile Virus to four transplant recipients. Experts believe the donor might have contracted the virus through a blood transfusion, after four transplant patients have come down with symptoms associated with the virus. One patient has died.
Though blood donors are not at any risk of getting the virus, they know one day they could be at the other end of the needle.
Donor Hope Seckinger told us, "There's always a chance at getting something if you're going to be receiving someone else's blood. If it's serious enough that you need the blood, it's the risk that goes along with it."
Once blood is donated, it goes through an intense screening process and is checked for a number of viruses. Right now it is not checked for West Nile.
"The risk of not having blood on shelf is far greater than contracting WNV through blood," Jerry McDuffie of the Savannah Community Blood Bank said.
McDuffie says it's too early to say if the virus can be spread, but he adds if experts do make a connection between the two, the Food and Drug Administration would start screening blood for the virus as well. And until then, he says blood supplies are safe and saving lives every day.
"West Nile Virus would be the last of my concerns if I needed blood or an organ," he said.
All previous West Nile cases are believed to have come from mosquitoes.