Remember That Package We Sent You Last Week?

...Of Cabbages and Kings Wrong virus is shipped to labs around the world and is hopefully destroyed before it gets loose...againAdd to the list of go
Wrong virus is shipped to labs around the world and is hopefully destroyed before it gets loose...again
Add to the list of good intentions gone awry: Periodically, the College of American Pathologists (CAP) sends a package to labs around the world containing unidentified pathogens. The recipients are supposed to test the contents and report back. That’s how the college tests the labs; if you identified it correctly, you are doing fine. If you don’t, your lab needs attention. The CAP kits are sent out from a private contractor, Meridian Bioscience in Cincinnati. Somebody at Meridian goofed and sent out a package containing one of history’s most deadly influenza vaccines. No one is supposed to get hurt doing these tests and in well-run labs, the pathogens do not get loose. But, they did, by accident at the CanadianNational Microbiology lab in Winnipeg, Saskatchewan, and it contaminated a sample in a lab. An alert technician discovered the contamination and the lab, one of Canada’s best, had no trouble identifying it as the flu that caused the Asian flu pandemic in 1957 that killed millions around the world, an H2N2 virus. The virus evolved into another type in a year, as flu viruses do very well, and we now get sick from something else. What makes this serious is twofold: no one born after 1958 has any immunity to this potentially deadly virus, and the virus is not used in vaccines since it no longer poses a threat. If the virus could escape from a lab as good as the one in Winnipeg, it could get away from other labs. All that has to happen is that it infects one lab worker, who goes home, goes shopping, gets on a plane or otherwise insures transportation and contagion. At the request of the World Health Organization, labs around the world are now busy destroying their samples, autoclaving them to cinder. So far, there have been no reports of an escape. Interestingly, Canada and most other countries classify the virus as Type 3, meaning it requires the very high security precautions. In the National Microbiology lab in Winnipeg, Saskatchewan, and it contaminated a sample in a lab. An alert technician discovered the contamination and the lab, one of Canada’s best, had no trouble identifying it as the flu that caused the Asian flu pandemic in 1957 that killed millions around the world, an H2N2 virus. The virus evolved into another type in a year, as flu viruses do very well, and we now get sick from something else. What makes this serious is twofold: no one born after 1958 has any immunity to this potentially deadly virus, and the virus is not used in vaccines since it no longer poses a threat. If the virus could escape from a lab as good as the one in Winnipeg, it could get away from other labs. All that has to happen is that it infects one lab worker, who goes home, goes shopping, gets on a plane or otherwise insures transportation and contagion. At the request of the World Health Organization, labs around the world are now busy destroying their samples, autoclaving them to cinder. So far, there have been no reports of an escape. Interestingly, Canada and most other countries classify the virus as Type 3, meaning it requires the very high security precautions. In theU.S., it is only Type 2. That classification is now being reassessed. And, incidentally, the 1957 pandemic began with birds in Asia, just as one seems to be forming now.
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UPDATE: The World Health Organization says that two-thirds of the virus samples have now been destroyed.

Bad Intel, Bad Policy democracy arsenal

We should all pay more attention to the recent report of the bipartisan presidential commission chaired by Laurence Silberman and Chuck Robb regarding U.S. intelligence and WMD threats. It got a couple of days of buzz when it was released a few weeks ago -- especially for its no-nonsense conclusion that all the pre-war judgments about Iraq's WMD were "dead wrong" – but has pretty much dropped out of sight since. At over 600 pages, it’s not exactly bedtime reading.

But like the 9-11 commission, this group has produced a rare kind of government report: compelling, hard-hitting, clear, provocative, and actually pretty entertaining. But it is also really scary. The commissioners conclude that there is no greater threat than the spread of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons (placing special emphasis on the threat from biological weapons, which they describe as the “greatest intelligence challenge”). Yet they show with great detail that our intelligence community is not sufficiently trained, motivated, equipped, or organized to deal with these threats. Even if we had an Administration intensely focused on the WMD threat, the limits of our intelligence capabilities would leave still leave us fighting with one hand tied behind our backs. U.S., it is only Type 2. That classification is now being reassessed. And, incidentally, the 1957 pandemic began with birds in Asia, just as one seems to be forming now.

UPDATE: The World Health Organization says that two-thirds of the virus samples have now been destroyed.

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