October 2, 2008 / 9:31 AM / 11 years ago

Three catch dengue from tainted blood in Singapore

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Three people contracted the dengue virus after receiving tainted blood from a donor in Singapore, a doctor wrote in a letter published in a medical journal on Thursday.

Paul Tambyah, a doctor with the National University of Singapore, said in the letter to the New England Journal of Medicine that a 52-year-old repeat blood donor, infected with dengue, had passed the virus on to three people.

“To our knowledge, transfusion-associated dengue is quite rare,” wrote Tambyah. “This case illustrates the difficulties encountered when attempting to ensure a safe blood supply,” he added.

The contamination could undermine the image of Singapore’s modern health care system, which attracts medical tourists.

The Health Sciences Authority was unavailable for comment.

Two of the three infected people showed symptoms of the potentially fatal fever, while the third showed no symptoms.

The dengue virus is mosquito-born and often results in a hemorrhagic fever that can kill if untreated. Thousands across Asia die each year as a result of the virus.

The three people affected were discharged in good health.

“Although screening is expensive, confidence in the blood supply could outweigh cost-effectiveness considerations,” Tambyah said.

Reporting by Melanie Lee; editing by Neil Chatterjee and Roger Crabb

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