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West Nile virus: a new threat to transfusion safety?

The West Nile virus is an RNA virus and is one of the most important pathogenic flaviviruses in humans. Due to the increasing number of confirmed cases in the U.S.A since 1999, with documentation of its dissemination from the East coast to the West and South in less than three years and because of its spread over four continents, measures are being implemented to control this epidemic. The documented transmission through blood transfusion, transplanted organs, breast feeding and vertical transmission and the significant morbidity and mortality rates (4 to 29%) is alarming the international medical community. Efforts have been made in an attempt to obtain accurate diagnostic tests, to search for an effective therapy, to control the vectors (insects) and to develop a vaccine. Cases of West Nile infection have already been reported in Central America. Due the ideal climatic conditions for the spread of this virus in Brazil, we should be aware of the risks of an epidemic here. This article presents the current worldwide picture of West Nile Virus dissemination, ways of transmission, clinical picture, diagnosis and treatment with some preventive measures for the control of this infection.

Blood transfusion; West Nile virus; arbovirus; flavivirus

Associação Brasileira de Hematologia e Hemoterapia e Terapia Celular R. Dr. Diogo de Faria, 775 cj 114, 04037-002 São Paulo/SP/Brasil, Tel. (55 11) 2369-7767/2338-6764 - São Paulo - SP - Brazil