Setting the record straight on chik-V and blood donations
THE EDITOR, Sir:
Clarification on article: "A Bloody Mess" in The Gleaner of Sunday, October 26.
In the interest of accuracy, we, the undersigned wish to clarify and expand on, comments that were attributed to us after a casual conversation in the case of Dr Alison Nicholson and no communication, in the case of Dr Doreen Brady-West
1. Chikungunya fever is a viral illness. It is transmitted by the bite of a mosquito, usually Aedes aegypti, which introduces the virus into the bloodstream. The virus multiplies in the blood causing a transient viraemia. Symptoms start abruptly two-six days after the mosquito bite and include fever, joint pains, rash, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, headache and enlarged, painful lymph nodes. Of these, the most common are fever, joint pains and rash.
In the person whose immune system is normal, the body mounts an immune response to the virus, clearing it from the bloodstream in seven-10 days. However, it may spread to tissues and joints where it can continue to replicate for months.
Most patients will experience improvement in their symptoms after the first week. In some cases, there is a relapse after a two-week period before resolving completely. In about 13 per cent of cases, the body's response to the virus contributes to the persistence of symptoms, and these patients will go on to have chronic infection in which symptoms, mainly joint pains, but may also include fatigue, depression and weakness, persist for months or even years.
Persistent symptoms tend to be more common in females and have been associated with the older age group as well as the presence of bilateral joint involvement at the time of onset.
2. Dr Doreen Brady-West was not interviewed for the above-captioned article and gave no statement on record concerning chikungunya effects on the transfusion service and first became aware of the article on the day of publication, along with all other readers of The Sunday Gleaner.
The suggestion of waiting for one-two weeks after symptoms have cleared to donate blood is based on the usual period of seven-10 days for the virus to be cleared from the blood. The cessation of acute symptoms indicates an end to viraemia (virus in the blood) even if chronic symptoms such as joint pains continue.
The presence of any of the acute symptoms of chikungunya or any other virus would mean automatic deferral from donating blood. The increasing number of chikungunya cases has led to a serious decline in blood donations beyond the usual decline traditionally seen at this time of the year. Healthy persons are, therefore, urged to donate blood in order to avoid a crisis due to shortage of life-saving blood and blood products.
It should be noted that the director of the National Blood Transfusion Service has recently issued a recommendation for deferral of blood donation for 28 days. We ask that you accord this response the same prominence given to the article mentioned above.
The University of the West
Mona, Kingston 7