Nine-year-old turning HIV+: DMO says rare chances of infection during transfusion

As the row over the nine-year-old cancer patient from Alappuzha found infected with HIV following blood transfusion at Regional Cancer Centre (RCC), Thiruvanathapuram,  continues, former Health Minister V. S. Shivakumar has urged the Government to examine the situation scientifically and find out what exactly had happened. He further asked the Government to bear all the treatment expenditure of the victim.

The girl, an Alappuzha native, was diagnosed with acute leukaemia and has been undergoing treatment at RCC since March. She had undergone blood transfusion several times at the hospital which is an autonomous institution jointly established by the Government of Kerala and Government of India. The girl was found HIV positive in a blood test conducted in August after she underwent blood transfusion. Meanwhile, the parents of the child have been found HIV negative.

It is informed that there was a deliberate attempt by the RCC officials to hide the information about the infection.

Sources from the Health Ministry informed The Kochi Post that the Minister has been discussing the issue with personnel concerned throughout the day. An investigation panel, which will be led by the Joint Director of Medical Education, to find the truth behind the incident, has been appointed by Health Minister K. K. Shailaja, they said. The panel was formed after the laboratory results at two particular times varied from each other.

“The RCC is an institution which is highly trusted by the public. The victim here is a nine-year-old cancer patient. The Government should find if any of the officials concerned was responsible. If so, they should be aptly punished. Such carelessness should never have been reported from RCC. This is highly condemnable and unfortunate,” Shivakumar said.

He said the RCC was an organisation, having the Chief Minister and the Health Minister in its Governing body. “So it is the Government’s responsibility to carry out the investigation as well as providing whatever assistance possible to the kid. Kerala is one of the states with least cases of HIV being reported each year.”

Thiruvananthapuram District Medical Officer Dr. Jose G. D’Cruz said that there were rare chances for the girl getting infected during blood transfusion as the practice nowadays was to transfer only the required blood component instead of blood as such.

“The only possibility of it to happen was that the blood was donated during the window period in which it was highly difficult to figure out if the donor is HIV affected or not. The window period is six months in normal cases in which we can only detect the antibodies generated against the virus. If the donor donated blood in this period, there would be possibilities for the virus to go undetected. And it has to be investigated if the hospital authorities transferred the blood as such instead of transferring the required white blood cells. To transfer only the required components was a collective decision taken by the hospitals to avoid such incidents,” D’Cruz  said.

When contacted, RCC PRO Surendran Nair said that the hospital provides only the required blood component to the patients. “The Government has appointed an investigation panel which will be led by Joint Director of Medical Education Dr. Sreekumari,” he said.

The officials at the Directorate of Medical Education declined to comment on the issue. “I am not in a position to say anything in this regard now,” said Dr. Remla Beevi A., Director of Medical Education.

Be patient: Police

The police officials investigating the case asked the public to be patient until they reach a conclusion. Cyber City Assistant Commissioner A. Pramod Kumar said that the investigation on the issue was just commenced on Friday and therefore he could not comment on the topic at this point.

“We have just begun the investigation on Friday. The girl had approached other hospitals too prior to RCC and the possibility of her getting infected from these hospitals will also be examined. We cannot say anything at this juncture as the matter is yet to be learned and investigated,” he said.


Cover image by Drcmohank (Own work), via Wikimedia Commons.

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