Live H5N1 Avian Flu Virus in Baxter Seasonal Flu Experimental Material
In December 2008, Baxter International's research facility in Orth-Donau, Austria, sent contaminated "experimental virus material" to an Austrian research company, Avir Green Hills Biotechnology, which then sent some of it to sub-contractors in the Czech Republic, Slovenia and Germany. The product, which should have contained only H3N2 seasonal flu viruses, also contained unlabelled H5N1 avian flu viruses; a fact which became apparent when, in February 2009, the Czech subcontractor tested the product on ferrets, and they died. The event prompted dismay from biosecurity professionals, who warned that - whereas H5N1 is not easily transmissible, H3N2 is much more infectious - had someone been infected with both viruses, they could have become an incubator for a new hybrid strain, with possibly dire consequences.* (See article at The New Scientist.)
The report below comes from the Polish TV station TVN, with subtitles in English. Beyond this, and a few other pieces of modest profile (listed below), I am not aware of any other mainstream media coverage. (If you know of other coverage, please let me know.) Given the seriousness of this event, why wasn't this story splashed across the front pages all over the world? That I find almost as disturbing as the event itself.
- * Information sourced from: Helen Branswell, "Baxter: Product contained live bird flu virus", Toronto Sun (27 February 2009). As the link to that article seems to have been memory-holed within two months of going to press (why?), please see reproductions at: Infowars.com (link) and CTVNews.ca (link). If in doubt of the trustworthiness of this story, please see coverage at: (1) The New Scientist: "Bird flu mix-up could have spelled disaster" (5 March 2009); and (2) The Times of India: "Virus mix-up in lab could have resulted in pandemic" (6 March 2009). See also: "Baxter International “Unintentionally” Sent Flu Samples to Companies that Contained H5N1 Avian Flu", Cryptogon.com (26 February 2009).
- Just in case the above video link gets memory-holed, here are other links: (1) (2) (3)