The World Health Organisation is urging laboratories around the world to immediately destroy vials of influenza sent out in mistake by a US company.
The vials contain samples of the strain that caused the 1957 influenza pandemic which killed between 1-4 million people worldwide. Almost 99%of the
recipient laboratories are in the US. Another 61 samples of the virus were sent to laboratories in Asia, Europe, the Middle-East and South America.
Thousands of scientists were scrambling today at the urging of global health authorities to destroy vials of a pandemic flu strain sent to labs in 18
countries as part of routine testing.
The rush, urged by the World Health Organisation, was sparked by a slim, but real, risk that the samples, could spark a global flu epidemic. The vials
of virus sent by a US company went to nearly 5,000 labs, mostly in the US, officials said.
The 1957 strain has not been included in the flu vaccine since 1968, and anyone born after that date has no immunity to it.
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Organisations, such as the Sunshine Project, have been warning for a long time that the next influenza pandemic may well come from a laboratory
because pandemic strains are being needlessly recreated and dispersed.
Let's hope that this incident causes a reassessment of the way in which these dangerous pathogens are handled.
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