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Health & Baby

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West Nile Virus May Infect Breast Milk

Parts of Virus Found In Milk of Nursing Mother


When the woman's breast milk tested positive for West Nile virus genetic material, she decided to stop breastfeeding. She continues to pump milk and may later decide to resume. The woman now appears to be making a full recovery from her illness.

It's theoretically possible for a person to get West Nile virus from breast milk. Humans have caught two related illnesses -- tick-borne encephalitis virus and Kyasanur forest disease -- from drinking the milk of infected cows.

The mother may have been infected by her blood transfusions. New evidence strongly suggests that West Nile virus can be spread this way. Two Michigan residents who got blood transfusions -- and the single donor from whom both got blood -- all have confirmed West Nile virus infections.

Jesse Goodman, MD, deputy director of the FDA's Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research (CBER), said at the news conference that the FDA is making progress in speeding the development and approval of tests that can detect West Nile virus in donated blood.

"We are considering whether and when we need to take additional steps," Goodman says. "We had already concluded that blood transmission of West Nile virus is very likely, and we are already acting on that conclusion. One of the most important things is we are urgently working with manufacturers of blood screening tests to facilitate their availability. These discussions have been extremely promising. This additional information is causing us to redouble those efforts and put them on the fast track."

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