WASHINGTON -- The government's top epidemic-control expert warned yesterday that the nation must remain on guard )) against new threats to the safety of the blood supply.
"In the past few decades, many of the best scientific minds in the country expected infectious diseases to be eliminated as a public-health problem in the United States," said Dr. David Satcher, director of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "As recent events have shown, these pronouncements were premature. We are faced increasingly with new and re-emerging infectious-disease challenges."
He said the CDC is beefing up its surveillance system to watch for new contaminants. He conceded, however, that hemophiliacs remain the best early warning system, since they use large quantities of blood-clotting products made from human plasma.
Dr. Satcher's testimony came during a hearing by a congressional subcommittee investigating how to prevent another tragedy such as blood-borne HIV. In the early 1980s, thousands of hemophiliacs and transfusion recipients contracted HIV, the AIDS virus, from tainted blood products.