At least 64 people were infected hepatitis C virus (HCV) after receiving blood transfusions in a county hospital in Guizhou Province, the local government said Tuesday.
The problem was discovered after an unnamed patient was given a blood transfusion during an operation in the People's Hospital of Pingtang County in March, 2001.
The patient had since felt uncomfortable and blood tests conducted by two leading local hospitals last September confirmed the patient was HCV positive, said Xie Yong, vice president of the county-level hospital.
Hospital staff traced the blood to donor Li Cailing, 43, a native of Jiangsu Province, and she kept donating up to 20,000 ml of blood for money to the hospital from October 1998 to June 2002.
Doctors went to Li's hometown for blood tests in October last year. The result showed she carried HCV virus.
Li claimed that she knew she was sick in 2003.
The hospital launched emergency investigations of all patients on records that had taken Li's blood. Tests showed 64 people were infected as of Tuesday.
Police have detained Li Changhe, who acted as president of the county-level hospital during the time of the contamination, on suspicion of illegally collecting and providing blood.
Under Chinese law, county-level hospitals are prohibited from taking and providing blood for transfusion.
Lax sanitary management should also be blamed as some blood was used in transfusions without necessary medical tests, said Xie.
The county government had allocated more than 1.6 million yuan (238,000 U.S. dollars) in compensation for the affected patients and the hospital would offer them free treatment, said Mao Youzhi, the county head.
HCV, which attacks the liver, is typically spread through contact with contaminated blood. Although a quarter of infected patients can overcome infection spontaneously, without treatment, the majority develop persistent infection, a major cause of cirrhosis and cancer of the liver.
The only approved treatment for HCV is an anti-viral drug known as pegylated interferon alpha. The drug is successful in only half of cases when administered during chronic infection. Success rates among those treated early are significantly higher at around 90 percent.
(Xinhua News Agency April 1, 2009)