Thursday, April 14, 2005

"Don't worry, be happy"

As CDC and WHO scramble to pick up the pieces of the pandemic influenza virus laboratory fiasco, they have reverted to usual spin mode, even as they admit they don't know what's going on.

Here's the CDC dance (AP via MSNBC):
The agency said it didn’t know why such a dangerous strain was included as part of the testing process.

“There’s a lot of questions right now we don’t have answers to,” said spokesman Tom Skinner. “I think what people need to understand is the very labs that receive these strains of influenza all have people trained to work safely and effectively with these viruses....”
Oh, right. "Safe and effective" like this:
In the United States, the samples were sent [by the] College of American Pathologists and for the moment, WHO said it was unsure how many samples had been destroyed there so far.

[WHO's Klaus] Stohr said the company which sent out the virus samples — Meridian Bioscience Inc. of Newtown, Ohio — abided by current U.S. regulations.

A spokesman for Meridian said company officials were traveling and not immediately available for comment.

However, Dr. Jared Schwartz, an official with College of American Pathologists says Meridien didn’t know it was a pandemic virus they sent out, they just thought it was an ordinary flu virus. He said they went to their samples and found a virus from the year 2000, which they’d gotten from another company which had gotten it from yet another company. According to Meridien’s process and evaluation they thought it was “an innoucuous. typical influenza A virus, the kind of virus they’ve used before in our programs,” Schwartz said.
So why aren't influenza viruses treated more carefully?
The head of the U.S. health agency said Wednesday that the government should restrict the handling of flu virus to more secure labs, as thousands of scientists around the world destroyed a deadly flu strain that had been sent to thousands of labs for testing.

Dr. Julie Gerberding, head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, said the agency has already recommended that change — a step not previously taken because flu virus has never been considered a possible bioterrorism weapon.
This makes me want to scream. They didn't do it because it wasn't a BIOTERRORISM weapon? WAKE UP. There aren't any bioterrorism weapons around. There ARE a lot of naturally occurring agents that kill people every day.