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Old 04-14-2005, 11:26 AM   #1
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Scientists rush to destroy killer flu virus

CTV.ca News Staff

Scientists around the world have rushed to destroy samples of a deadly strain of influenza sent out by mistake.

The error was discovered after Canadian officials alerted the World Health Organization that the virus had turned up in labs.

"We're not taking any chances, and we're doing everything we can to make sure there's no threat to human health," said Dr. Julie Gerberding of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control at a press conference in Atlanta Wednesday.

Gerberding said samples of H2N2, otherwise known as the "Asian flu", were sent to 4,000 or more laboratories in 18 countries, mostly in the United States, starting last fall.

In Canada, the Public Health Agency says all of the 20 Canadian labs that received the samples have destroyed them.

Canada's chief public health officer, Dr. David Butler-Jones, said this country is now conducting precautionary surveillance on lab workers for any influenza-like symptoms.

There have been no reports so far of any lab workers around the world being infected with the virus.

The largest sample was distributed by the College of American Pathologists, which routinely sends out kits used to test quality control. Usually, the sample contains influenza A viruses -- H3N2 and H1N1 -- in proficiency testing.

A proficiency test helps labs determine how good their tests are at detecting viruses.

This time the company that supplied the test kits, Meridian Bioscience Inc. of Ohio, included the H2N2 virus.

H2N2 caused the 1957 Asian flu pandemic that killed an estimated one million to four million people around the world. It was last seen in humans in 1968.

In March, an unidentified laboratory in British Columbia reported that it had turned up a positive test for H2N2. The Public Health Agency of Canada was alerted, and the World Health Organization warned on April 8.

At first, Canadian officials thought the test samples had been contaminated by old stored H2N2 virus. But the B.C. lab said it had no H2N2 in storage, leading to an investigation that uncovered the vial of live virus.

"There was some potential for considerable trouble," Dr. Klaus Stohr, head of the World Health Organization's global pandemic program, told The Canadian Press in an interview from Geneva.

"Fortunately it was found fast by the Canadians after there was initial suspicion."

An investigation revealed that the College of American Pathologists had sent the virus sample to 3,747 laboratories in 18 countries. Most of the labs are located in Canada and the U.S. but more than 60 labs are located outside North America.

Other countries where labs received the strain include Bermuda, Belgium, Brazil, Chile, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Israel, Italy, Japan, Lebanon, Mexico, the Republic of Korea, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, and Taiwan.

NO one is saying why the strain was not classified as too dangerous to ship.

Storr told The Canadian Press that in any event, the virus should be considered a level 3 biosafety hazard. That means H2N2 is capable of causing severe human disease, is a serious risk to humans and is capable of spreading in the community.

Public risk 'low'

Despite that, "the risk for the general population is also considered low," the WHO said in a news release on its website.

People born after 1968, when the flu was last detected in humans, are expected to have limited immunity to H2N2. It is also not contained in current flu vaccines.

For that reason, one doctor told The Canadian Press that H2N2 was "one of the tope five pandemic candidates."

Stohr described the decision to send out the strain as "unwise" and "unfortunate."

Gerberding said the CDC has found no unusual patterns of influenza this year and "we're not finding any H2N2 isolates in our collection of flu strains.

"By now, we would have been able to detect it," she added.

Brenda Hughes, executive assistant to the president of Meridian Bioscience Inc., declined comment on Wednesday.

The issue was referred to in the company's earning statements Wednesday. It said Meridian has a long history of supplying samples and believes it "has been and is in compliance with all applicable regulations."

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Old 04-14-2005, 07:37 PM   #2
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Has anyone here read "The Stand"? I am in the center of the research section of campus and I seriously considered calling in for a few days over this. I have to make sure my survivalist kit is in good order.
The Dude abides.
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Old 04-15-2005, 10:03 AM   #3
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I haven't read The Stand yet but I absolutely LOVE the movie, it's quite long, but I like it still. It's on my 'to read' list.
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Old 05-04-2005, 04:09 AM   #4
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28 Days Later..................
Be yourself, because the people that mind don't matter, and the people that matter don't mind.

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Old 05-04-2005, 10:01 AM   #5
no more nice girl
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I hope they took his organs.
He really shatters the myth of white supremacy once and for all.
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