BACKGROUND: Health history questions identify blood donors believed to pose a higher risk of transmission of infectious diseases. This study assesses the current impact of some of these questions on blood safety as reflected by infectious disease markers.
STUDY DESIGN AND METHODS: Donors who were deferred from donating blood due to health history question(s) were recruited at four different regions of the American Red Cross Blood Services. A blood sample was tested for serologic markers of blood-borne infections as performed for accepted blood donors.
RESULTS: Of 497 deferred donors enrolled, 29 donors were deferred for having had “yellow jaundice, liver disease, or hepatitis since the age of 11” (Question 3), 1 of whom had hepatitis C virus antibodies (anti-HCV) and hepatitis B core antigen antibodies (anti-HBc), 2 had anti-HBc, and 1 had anti-HCV (p < 0.05 for both markers). Among 37 donors deferred for having “ever tested positive for hepatitis” (Question 4), 1 had hepatitis B surface antigen and anti-HBc and 3 had anti-HBc (p < 0.05 for both markers). Of 14 donors deferred for “having ever used a needle, even once, to take any illegal or nonprescription drug” (Question 12), 1 had anti-HCV, human T-lymphotropic virus-I antibodies and anti-HBc, 1 had anti-HCV and anti-HBc, and 2 had anti-HCV (p < 0.05 for all three markers).
CONCLUSIONS: Blood donors deferred for standard blood donor questions regarding risk of viral hepatitis as well as those with a history of intravenous drug use were more likely to have higher hepatitis marker rates than those who were not deferred. No significant findings were identified for other markers or questions.