Guess what? A real-life version of a Captain Trips-type influenza virus really does exist and may be a threat.
WASHINGTON — A dangerous strain of the flu virus that caused a worldwide pandemic in 1957 was sent to thousands of laboratories in the United States and around the world, triggering a frantic effort to destroy the samples to prevent an outbreak, health officials revealed Tuesday.Of course, the danger has its genesis in human error.
Because the virus is easily transmitted from person to person and many people have no immunity to it, the discovery has raised alarm that it could cause another deadly pandemic if a laboratory worker became infected, officials said.
As a result, health authorities were working to make sure all samples are destroyed and to monitor anyone who may have come into contact with the virus for signs of illness, officials said.
“This virus could cause a pandemic,” said Klaus Stohr, the World Health Organization’s top flu expert. “We are talking about a fully transmissible human influenza virus to which the majority of the population has no immunity. We are concerned.”[SNIP]
The virus, known as an H2N2 strain, killed 1 million to 4 million people worldwide in 1957 and 1958, including about 70,000 in the United States. Because the virus has not circulated in the wild since 1968, anyone born after then would have no natural immunity to it. Since then the virus has been kept only in high-security biological laboratories.
The problem arose when Meridian Bioscience Inc. of Cincinnati, a private company, sent a panel of virus samples to about 3,700 laboratories, some in doctors’ offices, to be tested as part of routine quality-control certification conducted by the College of American Pathologists.Stephen King: prophet? Or merely an accurate predictor of Murphy’s Law(s)?
An additional 2,750 laboratories, all in the United States, received the samples and were asked to destroy them, CDC spokesman Dan Rutz said.
The panel samples usually include only strains of the flu virus that are relatively benign, Stohr said. “We would consider this an unwise and unfortunate decision.”
The mistake came to light March 25 when the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg, Manitoba, identified the virus.
After hearing about this on the TV news, I toyed with the idea of not posting about it. No need in contributing to panic. But my nieces and nephews were born well after 1968--heck, their parents were born after that—and so were most of your kids, readers, so I figure that knowledge is power even if the only power to resolve the situation is received from prayer.