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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) _ Two people contracted HIV from blood transfusions after tests failed to find the virus because the donor's infection was in its early stages, officials said.

The incident marks the second time since the nation's blood banks implemented new screening technology in 1999 that HIV has been transmitted through a transfusion, according to Florida Blood Services. The first case infected a man in San Antonio, Texas, in September.

The victims, one young adult and one in the mid-60s, were told Wednesday they contracted HIV from blood and plasma transfusions in Hillsborough and Pinellas county hospitals, according to Florida Blood Services, which processed the blood.

The donor gave infected blood in March, but had contracted the disease so recently that tests did not detect it, said German LeParc, chief medical officer for the blood bank. The virus takes seven to 10 days to build up sufficiently for detection.

When the donor returned to give blood again in May, the blood tested positive for HIV and that donation was destroyed, LeParc said. The donor was notified and officials began tracking down patients who received the previous donation.

LeParc said the donor, who was not identified, first gave blood on Sept. 12, when people rushed to blood banks in the wake of the terrorist attacks, then became a regular.

The infected donor had answered a list of standard questions intended to weed out high-risk donors, LeParc said. There was no indication that the donor had lied and concealed any such behavior, officials said, adding the donor was stunned to learn of the infection.

Five people who received blood from earlier donations tested negative and wouldn't need to be tested again, said Dan Eberts, spokesman for Florida Blood Services.

``Had they been infected there would have been ample time for incubation,'' he said.

Experts said the chance of getting HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, from donated blood is one in 2 million to 3 million transfusions, and they stress that the nation's blood supply remains very safe.

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On the Net:

Florida Blood Services: http://www.fbsblood.org