--> Gill Blog: PanEx - Delivering Pandemics to Your Door

Gill Blog

Thursday, April 14, 2005

PanEx - Delivering Pandemics to Your Door

When a pandemic flu virus was mistakingly sent to over 4,000 countries in a handful of countries, there was certainly cause for panic.
Samples of the influenza A(H2N2) virus were sent to 3,747 labs, the vast majority of them in the United States, the World Health Organization (WHO) said in a statement last night. The WHO recommended that all the samples, which were sent for use in lab proficiency testing, be destroyed immediately.

The H2N2 virus triggered the "Asian flu" pandemic of 1957-58, which killed an estimated 1 million to 4 million people worldwide, including 70,000 in the United States. The virus continued to circulate and cause annual epidemics until 1968, when the H3N2 virus emerged and sparked a new pandemic, the WHO said. Because the H2N2 virus has not circulated since then and is not used in current vaccines, "persons born after 1968 are expected to have no or only limited immunity to H2N2," the WHO said.
The problem was identified by a Canadian laboratory, which promptly informed the World Health Organization who then took immediate action to inform. The magnitude of the potential fallout of this incident was so significant, that the public announcement was made days after the problem was discovered. Scary stuff indeed.

Postscript: From USA Today Posted 4/17/2005 10:19 PM and Updated 4/18/2005 5:44 AM
Some samples of a potentially deadly flu virus, sent by mistake to thousands of laboratories from October through March, were found last week in FedEx warehouses in Lebanon, Mexico and Chile, a World Health Organization official said Sunday.


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