Skip to comments.US govt lab mixed up potent flu strain
Posted on 08/04/2014 4:02:43 PM PDT by EBH
A US government laboratory mistakenly mixed a common flu strain with a dangerous and deadly type of bird flu and shipped it to another lab, authorities said Friday.
The latest news followed admissions of mishandled anthrax and forgotten smallpox vials at separate US government labs, and raised new concerns about the safety of dangerous agents which could be used as bioterror weapons.
No one was endangered by the mixed flu strain, said Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Tom Frieden, who nevertheless said he was "astonished" that protocols could have been violated in that way.
"Everything we have looked at strongly suggests that there was no exposure of anyone to influenza," said Frieden at a press briefing.
He told reporters he had lost sleep since learning of the flu mix-up on Wednesday, six weeks after it occurred.
"These events should never have happened," he said, adding that they raise "serious and troubling questions.
"Frankly, I'm angry about it," he said.
Frieden said he has issued a moratorium on the transfer of any biological samples, including infectious agents, within or outside the CDC until an investigation is complete.
He also called for appropriate disciplinary action for any staff members who knowingly violated protocol or failed to report a lab incident.
"It tells me we need to look at our culture of safety throughout all our laboratories," Frieden said.
Anthrax, smallpox incidents
The CDC said it learned of the flu mix-up while it was finalizing a report about what happened with a separate incident involving anthrax on June 5, which it concluded was very unlikely to have exposed workers to dangers, though some 80 people were initially considered vulnerable.
"Earlier this year a culture of non-pathogenic avian influenza was unintentionally cross-contaminated at the CDC influenza laboratory with the highly pathogenic H5N1 strain of influenza and shipped to a BSL-3 select-agent laboratory operated by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)," the CDC said in a statement.
The lab is closed until better safety measures can be put in place, and an investigation is under way.
"For me personally, this is the most distressing," said Frieden of the flu incident, which took place on May 23.
The H5N1 bird flu is highly contagious and has killed about 60 percent of humans who been sickened by it.
It first infected humans in 1997 during a poultry outbreak in Hong Kong, and became widespread in 2003 and 2004.
Frieden said the type of H5N1 was not the exact same type as the one that spread in China, but "it is one of the ones that does concern us because it can be quite deadly both for poultry and for people."
The other type of flu involved was H9N2, he said.
The incidents may raise further concerns among opponents of studies known as "gain of function" research, in which scientists manipulate flu strains to find out how they can more easily spread, as well as how to better vaccinate against them.
In 2011 and 2012, worldwide scientists self-imposed a moratorium on such research after concerns were raised about research that made a potent flu strain jump easily between mammals.
The full details of those experiments were eventually published in leading scientific journals.
"It's disturbing. It's a little scary," said Len Horovitz, a pulmonary specialist and internist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, regarding the latest CDC revelations.
"The CDC has to have more control of its labs," he added. "More oversight is needed."
The CDC has also completed initial testing on the six apparently forgotten vials of smallpox that were found in a Food and Drug Administration lab at the National Institutes of Health earlier this week, and two had viable smallpox in them, Frieden said.
After scientists complete tests on the smallpox, they will destroy the samples in view of World Health Organization officials, he said.
"That is what should have been done a couple of decades ago," Frieden said.
"Whoever created these vials did not do so out of malice," he said, adding that they were dated February 10, 1954.
Smallpox was not eradicated worldwide until the late 1970s.
I have mixed thoughts; On one hand I think there is no way that they can be that stupid it has to be part of some plan, but on the other hand they have proved time and time again just how stupid they can be.
UNaccountable bureaucrats. What could possibly go wrong? Who will protect us from our protectors?
Something doesn't smell right.
Prior to the anthrax attack, I remember a TV program about our labs. A little pondering made me believe the TV program was some kind of signal.
So let’s bring Ebola infected people here and mix it with bird flu. What could go wrong?
Two separate incidents...
One mixing a common strain WITH the bird flu...
The anthrax, smallpox discovery at the NIH was a separate incident a few weeks prior.
Don’t worry about Ebola being invited in to the country. Nothing to worry about. The federal government has it all under control with the best and brightest bureaucrats watching out for us.
We all support Obamas Open Border policy for this very reason.
Everyone should have equal access to this and other diseases. No need for this elitism nonsense.
Never underestimate the stupidity of people. Just remember how many Liberals are out there.
On the other hand, what this probably is is simply someone or probably two people having a careless moment.
When I see a big fowl up where I work it usually happens because two or more people make a small mistake that just happen to work together to make something bad happen.
Either mistake by itself would have had little or no consequence but just because those mistakes happened at just the right time in just the right way bad things happened.
It’s brewing. The Obamas crisis is in, nearing the final
stages. He’s going to use Bio-terror as a false flag to
declare martial law. An outbreak of Ebola or something worse,
fake or real, and he’s in for good.
I have a feeling that by the time Obama is out, the dead
American body count is going to be in the millions.
While H5N1 (if the strain from Guangdong) is deadly, it isn't that contagious from a human to human standpoint, with only a couple of cases known of human to human transmission. Humans have caught the disease from infected poultry, where the disease is readily transmitted from bird to bird.
It is dangerous to bird populations, and contaminated poultry may be a vector as well as the bodily fluids of infected birds, admitted to the human body through cuts or scratches while butchering. The virus prefers the higher temperatures of birds or the deep human lung, and is not commonly expelled by coughs or sneezes by humans from the cooler upper respiratory tract.
However, combining strains might result in an organism more easily transmitted from human to human, and even with a reduced mortality rate that could be a significant human pathogen in the wild.
Whatever the case, these sort of 'mistakes' do not instill confidence in the same people who tell us there is no risk from other diseases...
Eugenics...the modern eugenics...if they can’t outright get rid of who they consider inferior...well ...we can just release deadly diseases to take care of things.
I cannot even imagine 300 people vaccinated this fall with a mix of the common flu and bird flu...
They’re pretty sure that none of this stuff got loose. I know that’s good enough for me. How about you?
If they are counting the number of clean vials in and used vials out...maybe.
But I bet they don’t count new unused vials...
“On the other hand, what this probably is is simply someone or probably two people having a careless moment.”
If these people have a careless moment they die. They’re VERY careful.
So are bomb disposal technicians and yet they occasionally blow themselves up.
All workers make mistakes occasionally. Most of these mistakes are benign. Many go totally unnoticed even by the people that made them. Some of the mistakes will be corrected by the person on the spot or by the next worker to come by.
But occasionally a mistake is made and not caught. That mistake may sit there for days or weeks unnoticed. Then another worker comes along and does something correct or incorrect that brings that mistake to light in a bad way.
It is a fact of life in the human world. People make mistakes; all of us everywhere. The best you can do is teach people techniques to minimize the number of mistakes.
When I ran a lab in the ethanol industry, we counted every vial every day. Getting a bad yeast strain in the fermenter screwed up your week.
That was with brewers yeast, not something nasty
Post to me or FReep mail to be on/off the Bring Out Your Dead ping list.
The purpose of the Bring Out Your Dead ping list (formerly the Ebola ping list) is very early warning of emerging pandemics, as such it has a high false positive rate.
So far the false positive rate is 100%.
At some point we may well have a high mortality pandemic, and likely as not the Bring Out Your Dead threads will miss the beginning entirely.
*sigh* Such is life, and death...
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