CHICAGO (AP) _ A New York blood bank is notifying 40,000 Chicago-area residents who received transfusions from 1994 to 1996 that they may have received blood that was improperly tested for viral infections _ including HIV and hepatitis.

The blood came from the New York Blood Center, which has known about the problem for two years. Officials said they waited until now to notify Chicago because of the logistics of simultaneously notifying the four cities affected. The center alerted New York last year and Pittsburgh and Memphis, Tenn., last month.

``If we had thought there was a big problem, we would have done something right away,'' said Dr. Robert Jones, president and CEO of the New York Blood Center.

Although blood center officials said that tainted blood may have been passed on to as many as 28 hospitals in the Chicago area, they also said they were making the announcement simply to be cautious. They said no infections had been linked to the blood and the chances of infection were remote.

``It may seem like overkill, but we're trying to be very conservative about this,'' Jones said.

Two managers at the center were convicted in 1997 of federal charges that they took shortcuts on blood tests and then falsified records to cover their crimes.

An investigation found that the shortcuts affected tests for HIV, hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HTLV, a virus that has been associated with some types of leukemia.

An announcement made in local newspapers today and scheduled to be continued tomorrow addresses ``all who received blood from June 1994 to December 1996 in a Chicago-area hospital.'' The telephone number of the blood center is included so that recipients can find out if their hospitals received the blood in question.