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Safety of Blood Products

Are blood products safe?

In the past, HIV and hepatitis C were transmitted through blood products. Are blood products safe now?

The blood products recommended to treat VWD today have never been known to transmit HIV, which causes AIDS, or hepatitis B or C. Five different safety measures are used to make VWF concentrate as safe as possible.

  • Blood donors go through a rigorous screening process.
  • Each blood donation undergoes a series of tests to detect HIV, hepatitis A, B and C and other viruses which could be present in blood. If any virus is found, the blood donation is not used.
  • The plasma from which VWF concentrate is made is again tested for the presence of these viruses.
  • During manufacturing, the VWF concentrate is treated to kill any viruses that may have escaped detection.

Despite these safety measures, factor concentrates made from plasma may transmit parvovirus. Parvovirus is a common virus that is not normally dangerous. However, it can, in rare cases, cause miscarriage (spontaneous abortion.) (See Conception, Pregnancy and Childbirth.)

The risk of transmitting blood-borne diseases, especially unknown ones, still exists. For this reason, scientists are currently developing VWF concentrates made through recombinant technology, without human plasma. These new products are likely to be available within the next few years.

Are there any vaccines a person with von Willebrand disease should take?

Yes, there are. Hepatitis B can still be transmitted by certain blood products, such as plasma and red cells. The vaccine against hepatitis B is recommended for all people who routinely receive blood or blood products.

In very rare cases, hepatitis A has been transmitted by blood products. Therefore, doctors recommend vaccination against hepatitis A for people who receive blood or blood products. This is especially important for people who are infected with hepatitis C. This is because hepatitis A can be a serious, even fatal, disease for people who have hepatitis C.

If a person used blood products in the past, should he/she be tested for HIV and hepatitis C?

Yes. If a person received blood or blood products in the past, he/she should be tested for HIV and hepatitis B and C.

A Hemophilia/Bleeding Disorder Treatment Centre can provide counseling before doing the tests. Anonymous testing, which keeps the results confidential, is available.