updated 4/8/2004 5:42:15 PM ET 2004-04-08T21:42:15

At least six people became infected with the West Nile virus through blood transfusions last year despite the screening of donations, the government said Thursday.

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said a small risk of infection still exists despite the screenings.

Last year was the first full year in which donor blood was screened for West Nile, and as a result, 818 donations were removed from the blood supply, the CDC said.

Two of the six people infected through transfusions have died, but West Nile was not the cause of death, CDC spokeswoman Jennifer Morcone said.

There were 9,006 cases of the mosquito-borne virus in the United States last year. The CDC said West Nile caused 220 deaths, and nearly 2,700 suffered severe neurological disease from the virus.

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