State health department officials and doctors at a government hospital at Sattur in Sivakasi district in Tamil Nadu are clamouring to explain how a pregnant woman was transfused with HIV positive blood, following the shocking lapse in screening process at the hospital. The transfusion of unscreened blood came to light on Tuesday only by chance, after the donor of the infected blood was made aware of his condition elsewhere.
The woman, a 23-year-old wife of a daily-wage earner pregnant with her second child, was admitted to the government hospital in Sattur when she was found to be anaemic. During the course of the treatment, she was given a blood transfusion with HIV positive blood by accident. Health officials say that a human error on the part of a lab technician responsible for screening the donated blood resulted in the medical mishap. State health department officials say that the three technicians have been suspended.
If not for the off-chance discovery of his HIV status by the donor of the infected blood, this incident might not have come to light.
Earlier this month, a 19-year-old man discovered that he was HIV positive when he underwent a routine medical examination as part of a visa application process. After more blood tests and a confirmation of his condition, he immediately notified the doctors of a recent blood donation drive he had taken part in.
Health department officials were then informed, who traced the donated blood and found that it had been transfused to the 23-year-old woman from Sattur. Officials moved immediately and contacted the woman and her family, and she has been started on antiretroviral medications as a precaution.
“She will be monitored and screened regularly, we are talking all necessary actions,” said Dr Senthil Raj IAS, who has been overseeing the crisis, to TNM. The woman, who is expected to deliver the child by the end of January, is currently under the care of doctors.
In an effort to contain the situation, Dr Senthil Raj has ordered that no blood donated at the hospital’s blood bank will be transfused until further notice. In the meantime, authorities are working to determine whether the blood was donated to other patients.
“All efforts are being taken to contain the situation and to make sure that no one else is affected. All blood transfusions from the Sattur hospital are currently being ordered to stop. Blood will be sourced from other facilities in the meantime,” he said.
Meanwhile, the health department has ordered an inspection of blood banks in all government and private hospitals in Virudhunagar district. All the blood stored in the 14 blood banks – 10 government-run and 4 private - will be screened again.
The human immunodeficiency virus (or HIV) causes acquired immunodeficiency syndrome or AIDS. The virus attacks the body’s immune system and causes people to succumb to secondary infections. HIV is primarily transmitted through sexual contact or needle sharing.