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CDC HIV/AIDS/Viral Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update
SOUTH KOREA: Hepatitis B-Infected Blood Transfused to 117 People
Kim Bo-eun
October 17, 2012
Korea Times (Seoul) (10.15.12)

On October 15, data showed that due to a delay in the Korea Red Cross using the latest screening methods, blood infected with hepatitis B was transfused to 117 individuals. According to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, individuals who had tested positive for hepatitis B after the Red Cross introduced a new screening method in May of last year had their blood, previously offered for transfusion, retested. Data from the testing showed that in 59 cases the blood erroneously tested negative and subsequently had been transfused to 117 individuals. According to the investigation conducted by health authorities, two of the 117 have not been infected, and testing is ongoing for the remaining 115 individuals. The errors in testing were revealed as the blood was retested using the Nucleic Acid Amplification Test. NAT confirms the genes of pathogens and can detect early infections that the enzyme immunoassay (EIA) method currently used cannot. The “window period,” which refers to the initial time period when individuals do not test positive for hepatitis B, is 59 days for EIA and 25 days for NAT. Since Korea has a relatively large number of individuals with hepatitis B, the need for NAT had been suggested previously, but the Korean Red Cross only began using the new test in June of last year.