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Challenges in testing for West Nile virus

Blood transfusions and organ transplants appear to have infected some people with the West Nile virus, a sometimes lethal germ that can cause fevers, encephalitis, and even polio symptoms (SN: 9/28/02, p. 293: Another Polio? Alarming West Nile fever risks emerge). In response, the Food and Drug Administration is trying to figure out how blood banks can detect signs of West Nile infection in donors and, eventually, test donated blood for the virus itself.

Blood carrying a significant risk of infection will be culled from blood banks, vowed Jesse Goodman, deputy director of the FDA in Rockville, Md., on Sept. 19. However, he noted, no adequate means now exists to screen blood for the virus.

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