EDITORIAL: Donate safe blood

It would be better still if we adopted NAAT to ensure that the blood used for transfusion is completely safe

There is always a danger of being infected with the HIV from blood transfusion. Although contracting HIV from donated blood is rare there is still a possibility of being infected as the blood from donors is not completely safe. The window period for HIV is about three months. During this period it is difficult to test for the virus as it does not show up in the blood tests we possess. However, there are tests in advanced countries which conducts tests through kits which can detect the virus even during the window period. Nepal lacks such kits so there is a possibility of contracting AIDS from blood transfusion. Considering the need to make blood safe for transfusion it is high time we too had such kits to detect the HIV before the window period. It is rare for HIV to show up after the window period of three months, although there are exceptions.

Kits known as Nucleic Acid Amplification Test (NAAT) are capable of detecting the virus 10 to 12 days after the infection during the window period. As infected people also donate blood and they could be in the widow period with the virus there is always danger that those using donated blood will contract the deadly disease. Although the HIV cases reported from blood transfusion are relatively low compared to other modes of transmission it would be wise to possess NAAT kits. Since July 2016 as many as 116 people were recorded to have contracted HIV due to blood transmission. Of them, 78 were males, 35 females and three transgender. The country possesses 105 blood transfusion services and the National Public Health Laboratory at Teku is assigned the task of ensuring the quality of blood being donated. Blood is mostly collected by blood donation camps. The blood collected is tested for not only HIV but also Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, and Syphilis.

At present, the rapid test and ELISA test are being carried out in the blood donated. As we do not possess blood transfusion guidelines it is high time they were made. The world marks the Blood Donor Day on June 14. In the meantime, the authorities concerned should take up this matter seriously given the gravity of the suituation. However, NAAT is very expensive as it costs around Rs. 68,000 per test. As there is a shortage of blood more donors should be encouraged to donate safe blood which can save the lives of many recipients. The donors need to be aware about their health condition. Since the virus does not show up during the window period as we lack NAAT, the donors should take the precaution of carrying out blood tests every three months, particularly if they are from the high risk groups like sex workers and those using drugs. The country lacks the resources to carry out tests like NAAT which also detects Human T-lymphotropic virus 0 - 1 and HTLV-2. These viruses cause leukemia and myelopathy of the spinal cord. Meanwhile, we should encourage more people to donate blood as there is a shortage of it in the few blood banks in the country. It would be better still if we adopted NAAT to ensure that the blood used for transfusion is completely safe. This would be a great achievement. Somethings should be done about this immediately.

Timely monsoon

Monsoon has finally entered Nepal through the eastern part, delayed only by two days. It is good news for farmers who are preparing for paddy plantation. However, the Meteorological Forecasting Division had predicted that this year’s monsoon will be delayed by a few more days. It will take at least one week to be active throughout the country. It is normally believed that monsoon enters Nepal on June 10 and lasts for four months till September-end. As per the statistics in the past 49 years, the country has witnessed 34 delayed monsoons causing adverse impact on agricultural production.

Monsoon is the main source of irrigation for paddy and winter crops as the government has not been able to build irrigation canals in the Tarai region, the main food bastion. In case of delayed monsoon and low precipitation paddy production will be hit hard. Taking this into account, the government must make huge investment on developing irrigation canals and ground water irrigation system to increase productivity in agriculture. Agriculture still plays a vital role in the country’s economic growth. Nepal achieved 7.5 percent growth rate this fiscal because of early arrival of monsoon with fair precipitation last year.