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A man who received blood transfusions earlier this year at a hospital in eastern Japan has been infected with HIV, government and other sources said Wednesday.

If donated blood were the source of the infection, it would be the first such case since the Japan Red Cross Society introduced a highly sensitive virus detection method in 1999.

The case was reported to the day’s meeting of a health ministry committee overseeing blood donations.

The patient received infusions of red blood cells between March and July donated by eight people, and subsequent tests conducted after he transferred hospitals found him HIV-positive, his doctor reported to the health ministry via the Red Cross in early September, they said. The man, identified only as being in his 50s, was suffering anemia caused by dialysis.

It is unclear whether he was infected with HIV, which causes AIDS, before or after the transfusions. The doctor, however, ruled out infection via intercourse or other means and suspects the source was the blood transfusions.

There is a period after HIV infection during which the virus cannot be detected. While the virus was not detected in samples of the blood used in the transfusion that were kept in storage by the Red Cross, the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry has ordered the Red Cross to investigate the case since HIV screens may have missed the virus.

The Red Cross will also call on the eight people who donated the blood given to the patient to undergo HIV tests.

The blood given to the man was also used to produce blood plasma products, which were confirmed to have been given to three patients. One has since died due to the patient’s original illness, while the other two are under observation, according to Red Cross officials.

Meanwhile, two new cases in which people contracted the hepatitis-B virus through blood transfusions were also reported to the ministry panel Wednesday. The latest cases were confirmed under the ongoing Red Cross investigation into the distribution routes of thousands of blood transfusion units that may have been tainted with such viruses as hepatitis and HIV.

According to the Red Cross, its probe showed that blood donated from 33 people was contaminated with the hepatitis-B virus, and tests are currently being conducted on these people.

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