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Study Indicates Tots May Have Gotten AIDS Through Transfusions

November 12, 1987

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Premature babies who received blood transfusions at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center between 1980 and 1985 are being tested for the deadly AIDS virus as part of a federally funded study, the hospital said.

Doctors don’t believe the babies are more at risk than any patient at any hospital who received transfusions in the years before the blood supply was routinely screened for the AIDS virus, said Ron Wise, a spokesman for the hospital known for its celebrity patients.

The tests are part of a federally funded study.

″The community should not be alarmed by this study,″ Wise said today. ″It isnt a warning″ to parents, he added.

The hospital is attempting to contact parents of 700 premature babies who received blood transfusions between January 1980 and March 1985, Wise said.

The risk of contracting AIDS through tainted blood was reportedly highest then because effective blood-screening tests had not been developed.

The survey has been under way for more than a year, KCBS-TV reported Wednesday. Final results aren’t expected until sometime in 1988, Wise said, adding that hospital officials must still locate a number of parents.

″It is just a study that was funded by the Centers for Disease Control that is looking back at neo-natal blood transfusions that were done before the blood screening process was available,″ Wise said.

Cedars-Sinai officials declined to reveal preliminary survey results Wednesday, citing medical ethics and the chance that early results might be skewed and not accurately reflect final conclusions.

Dr. David Rimoin, director of the hospital’s pediatrics and birth defects departments, said he didn’t know how many of the children tested so far had been confirmed as having the AIDS virus.

″I’m sure there have been some who have tested positive,″ he said. ″Early on in the game, before there was any testing of blood, anyone who had a transfusion had a chance of contracting AIDS.″

Acquired immune deficiency syndrome is caused by a virus that damages the body’s immune system, leaving victims susceptible to infections and cancer.

It is spread through sexual contact, needles or syringes shared by drug abusers, infected blood or blood products, and from pregnant women to their offspring.

A positive test indicates the presence of AIDS antibodies, which in turn means the person tested has been exposed to the AIDS virus. It does not mean the person has AIDS.

KCBS reporters spoke with one woman, Nina Shearer, who said her daughter, Cory, was one of the 700 premature children who received blood transfusions at the hospital between 1980 and 1985. KCBS-TV reporter Ann Curry said the girl died of AIDS nine months ago.

The report of the AIDS study at Cedars-Sinai follows a report last week from Irwin Memorial Blood Bank, which serves 43 San Francisco Bay area hospitals, that up to 900 people who received blood transfusions in the Bay area before donor testing began in 1985 may be infected with the AIDS virus without knowing it. Some 260 recipients already have been diagnosed as having AIDS or the AIDS virus, the head of the blood bank said.

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