BACKGROUND: Blood safety is important in all transfusion centers. The aim has always been to try to guarantee the recipient's safety through careful screening and examination of donors' blood samples. In Iran the hepatitis C virus (HCV) screening test became mandatory for blood donations from 1996. We decided to determine the incidence of new cases of HCV in patients with thalassemia, after screening of blood bags was initiated.
STUDY DESIGN AND METHODS: The study was done on patients with complete files for anti-HCV test results. Only cases that had a confirmed positive anti-HCV result after a negative result were considered as new cases. The incidence rate was estimated and expressed in person-years (PY). Also, for increased accuracy and comparison of incidence in recent years, the incidence rate was calculated at two 7-year intervals (1996-2002 and 2003-2009).
RESULTS: A total of 395 files were studied with a mean age of 27.5 years (SD ± 7.99 years). We had 109 (27.5%) anti-HCV positive, of which 21 (19.2% of positive cases) were exposed after 1996 and considered as new cases. The incidence of HCV cases in 14 years (1996-2009) was 4.2/1000 PY. The incidence in the first 7-year period (1996-2002) was 6.2/1000 PY and 1.3/1000 PY in the second 7-year period (2003-2009).
CONCLUSION: The incidence of HCV is on the decline in Iran, both in blood donors and in recipients. We owe this to the improved blood safety in our transfusion center that has taken up better strategies. Even though the residual risk will never reach zero and we may still have new cases of HCV, it will definitely be with a lower rate. The fact that we have had no new cases among our patients with thalassemia since 2005 bears witness to this matter.