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Published in TRANSFUSION Volume 39, August 1999.


BACKGROUND: Tick-borne illnesses were diagnosed in a group of National Guard members, including some who had donated blood a few days before the onset of symptoms. A voluntary recall of those blood components was issued and a multistate investigation was conducted to determine if transfusion-transmitted illness had occurred.
STUDY DESIGN AND METHODS: Donors and recipients were asked to complete questionnaires regarding symptoms and risk factors for infection and to provide blood samples for laboratory analysis.
RESULTS: Among National Guard personnel who donated blood, 12 individuals were found to have a confirmed or probable case of Rocky Mountain spotted fever or ehrlichiosis. A total of 320 units (platelets or packed red cells) from 377 donors were transfused into 129 recipients. Although 10 recipients received units from National Guard personnel with confirmed or probable infection, none became ill.
CONCLUSION: Transfusion-transmitted illness did not occur. Despite the awareness of the risk for tick-borne diseases and the use of tick-preventive measures, many National Guard personnel reported exposure to ticks. In addition to augmenting current tick-preventive measures, scheduling blood drives before rather than after field exercises could further reduce the potential for transmission of tick-borne pathogens.

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