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Scurry to plug blood scam
Re-test order for samples

Calcutta, Oct. 12: The state health department has issued a confidential circular asking all blood banks across the state to re-examine the blood which was earlier tested with faulty kits supplied by Calcutta-based businessman Govind Sarda.

This follows the revelation, reported in The Telegraph, that thousands of people may have been given contaminated blood that was tested with kits whose expiry dates had either been tampered with or which had passed their use-by dates during the past one year.

“The circular states that if the blood samples tested by those expired kits are still stored in distribution centres and hospitals, they should be identified by their batch numbers and tested with proper kits supplied by other distributors in accordance with guidelines stipulated by the National Aids Control Organisation,” a health official said.

According to police and health department sources, the faulty kits were used from the end of 2004.

Health minister Surjya Kanta Mishra refused to comment on the scandal. “The minister will not comment since an inquiry is on,” an aide to Mishra said.

State drug control officers said they had issued orders to all blood distribution centres to stop using the faulty kits.

“We have confiscated some of the kits supplied by Sarda and which are still in circulation and handed them over to the police,” said an official.

The health department held a meeting at Swastha Bhavan today where the minister and senior officials discussed the situation.

“All hospitals and blood banks have been alerted against using expired kits. Departmental inquiries are also on,” said an official of the West Bengal Aids Prevention and Control Society.

Mishra: Why is he quiet'

Police sources said a little less than 2,000 kits had been confiscated from various distribution centres, including the central blood bank. Each test kit, containing chemicals which would show the anti-body reactions in the blood sample to viruses causing Hepatitis B, C and HIV, can test up to 48 units.

“Such expired kits are still being used in some hospitals and diagnostic centres in the city. We are conducting random raids to seize these kits,” said Prabir Chatterjee, officer-in-charge of the anti-fraud section of the police’s detective department.

“Samples have been collected and sent for examination to Delhi and reports are expected by next week,” he said.

Yesterday, health officials expressed the fear that thousands of people across the state might have been given contaminated blood that was tested with faulty kits.

Officials said teams would be sent to North Bengal and Burdwan next week to conduct further raids. “A large number of kits were also used in these two district hospitals and from here units of blood are distributed to rural blood banks,” the police said.

Sarda, who is under arrest, was produced in court today and was remanded in judicial custody till October 17.

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