Wednesday, April 13, 2005

What do you do with a dangerous flu strain?

Scientists around the world were scrambling to prevent the possibility of a pandemic after a nearly 50-year-old killer influenza virus was sent to thousands of labs, a decision that one researcher described as "unwise."

Nearly 5,000 labs in 18 countries, mostly in the United States, were urged by the World Health Organization to destroy samples of the dangerous virus because of the slight risk it could trigger a global outbreak. The labs received the virus from a U.S. company that supplies kits used for quality control tests

Her counterpart at WHO, Klaus Stohr, agreed but said, "If someone does get infected, the risk of severe illness is high, and this virus has shown to be fully transmissible."
The germ, the 1957 H2N2 "Asian flu" strain, killed between 1 million and 4 million people. It has not been included in flu vaccines since 1968, and anyone born after that date has little or no immunity to it.

5,000 labs? Which one will be the weak link?

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