A US drug company manufactured a potential EU human health disaster which was only averted by the vigilance of scientists in just one EU country, the Czech Republic. This dramatic story which came to light in February 2009 should have been given much wider news coverage around the world. It was not. Draw your own conclusions. We are re reporting this story to remind readers and provide some links to reference sources before they eventually vanish from the web.
If health officials are to be believed [which appears is not often] the consequences could have been a pan-European health disaster not seen for a century or more. Such a disaster would have seen sales of ‘flu vaccines soar and remain buoyant for decades whilst causing economic havoc in the EU, which could have spread much further. Whilst described as an accident, some experts believe that biosecurity protocols are so strict that such a release could not have been an accident.
During the early stages of the fake “swine ‘flu/bird ‘flu scare-that-never-was”, which made billions for drug companies in 2009 and caused great embarrassment for the World Health Organisation responsible for announcing and maintaining the scam health scare, the Deerfield, Illinois-based US pharmaceutical company Baxter International Inc was caught at an early stage in December 2008 releasing into several EU countries contaminated flu virus material from a plant in Austria containing live H5N1 avian flu viruses.
We are including as usual links to some source references and recommend to interested readers to keep details before they cease to be available. If a reader comes across a link to a report from sources like a reputable news outlet or statements from health officials of recognised health organisations, please post them in a comment here for the benefit of others to refer to so we can build up a resource of links on this page for reference.
Virus mix-up by lab could have resulted in pandemic – The Times of India Mar 6, 2009, 12.02am IST
Baxter admits flu product contained live bird flu virus – The Canadian Press – Friday Feb. 27, 2009
Extracts from The Canadian Press report:
….. an official of the World Health Organization’s European operation said the body is closely monitoring the investigation into the events that took place at Baxter International’s research facility in Orth-Donau, Austria. “At this juncture we are confident in saying that public health and occupational risk is minimal at present,” medical officer Roberta Andraghetti said from Copenhagen, Denmark.
“But what remains unanswered are the circumstances surrounding the incident in the Baxter facility in Orth-Donau.”
The contaminated product, a mix of H3N2 seasonal flu viruses and unlabelled H5N1 viruses, was supplied to an Austrian research company. The Austrian firm, Avir Green Hills Biotechnology, then sent portions of it to sub-contractors in the Czech Republic, Slovenia and Germany.
The contamination incident, which is being investigated by the four European countries, came to light when the subcontractor in the Czech Republic inoculated ferrets with the product and they died. Ferrets shouldn’t die from exposure to human H3N2 flu viruses.
Public health authorities concerned about what has been described as a “serious error” on Baxter’s part have assumed the death of the ferrets meant the H5N1 virus in the product was live. But the company, Baxter International Inc., has been parsimonious about the amount of information it has released about the event.
On Friday, the company’s director of global bioscience communications confirmed what scientists have suspected.
“It was live,” Christopher Bona said in an email.
The contaminated product, which Baxter calls “experimental virus material,” was made at the Orth-Donau research facility. Baxter makes its flu vaccine — including a human H5N1 vaccine for which a licence is expected shortly — at a facility in the Czech Republic.
People familiar with biosecurity rules are dismayed by evidence that human H3N2 and avian H5N1 viruses somehow co-mingled in the Orth-Donau facility. That is a dangerous practice that should not be allowed to happen, a number of experts insisted.
Accidental release of a mixture of live H5N1 and H3N2 viruses could have resulted in dire consequences.
While H5N1 doesn’t easily infect people, H3N2 viruses do. If someone exposed to a mixture of the two had been simultaneously infected with both strains, he or she could have served as an incubator for a hybrid virus able to transmit easily to and among people.
Baxter hasn’t shed much light — at least not publicly — on how the accident happened.
Andraghetti said Friday the four investigating governments are co-operating closely with the WHO and the European Centre for Disease Control in Stockholm, Sweden.
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