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OPTN statement regarding H1N1 virus

Published on: Friday, May 1, 2009

The OPTN shares in the worldwide concern over the public health risk posed by the newly discovered H1N1 influenza strain, commonly referred to as "swine flu." At this point, we are not aware that this flu strain has affected any U.S. transplant candidates or recipients. However, we urge all transplant professionals, as well as transplant candidates, recipients and family members, to take prudent precautions to minimize the risk of infection and transmission.

Common signs and symptoms of this flu strain include fever, respiratory tract illness (cough, sore throat, runny nose), headache and muscle aches. Some with the illness also have experienced vomiting and diarrhea. Cases of severe respiratory disease, including fatal outcomes, have been reported, primarily in Mexico.

The potential impact of the H1N1 outbreak on the organ donor potential is unknown. There has not been a documented H1N1 illness contracted through blood or solid organ transmission. At present, we recommend that donation and transplant professionals continue to apply the same vigilance and assessment routinely given to potential donor evaluations. Decisions to recover and transplant organs should be based on the usual clinical factors as well as the presence of documented H1N1 infection in your community. Since the virus does inhabit the lower respiratory system, lung donation should be done cautiously in any situation where concern for upper and lower respiratory infection exists.

We encourage everyone to monitor updated guidance from federal, state and local health authorities.