An 86-year-old woman has died after she was allegedly infected with malaria during a hospital blood transfusion and a Red Cross spokeswoman says donations in Austria – just like in the UK – are not routinely checked for the disease.
The elderly woman, whose name was not reported due to strict privacy laws, died in a hospital in the Austrian city of Klagenfurt.
The woman was admitted into hospital for hip surgery and required a blood transfusion during the procedure.
Reports said that the surgery was successful and the patient was sent home. However, her condition quickly declined and she was rushed back to hospital where she died last week.
According to local media, she tested positive to a malaria test and the parasite count in her blood was said to be even higher than a person infected by a malaria-carrying mosquito.
Working on the assumption that the hospital’s donated blood might have been contaminated, the public prosecutor’s office has reportedly launched an investigation into negligent homicide.
Reports said that samples of the donated blood have been sent to Germany to determine whether it was indeed infected with malaria.
Red Cross spokeswoman Melanie Reiter claimed that blood donations in Austria are not checked for malaria.
She said: “We test blood donations for all sorts of things, even West Nile virus, but malaria is currently not included.”
Blood banks rely on applicants being honest when answering questions about whether or not they recently visited parts of the world affected by malaria.
Reiter said: “If the question is answered ‘yes’, the donor will not be accepted.”
If the hospital’s blood samples test positive for malaria, the Austrian Red Cross said that it would be the first case in Austria where someone contracted malaria through a blood transfusion.
However, it would not be the first case where a patient has been infected during a blood transfusion in the country.
In 2013, a patient was accidentally infected with HIV after receiving donated blood in hospital.
In the UK, “additional tests” can be performed to see if blood donations carry malaria although the test is not routine and is subject to various factors including the donor’s travel background.