Scientists Rush To Destroy
Killer Flu Virus - Why?

From Patricia Doyle, PhD
Hello, Jeff -The following is quite confusing to me. Why rush to destroy this particular virus, i.e. the influenza virus that killed between 1 million to 4 million in 1957. I have not heard scientists calling for the destruction of the Spanish flu virus or even the H5N1 virus. Why the 1957 virus?
Has there already been a dangerous situation, has someone taken ill? IS this going to be the influenza that recombines with H5?
In 1957-58, "Asian flu," [A (H2N2)], caused about 70,000 deaths in the United States. First identified in China in late February 1957, the Asian flu spread to the United States by June 1957.
When or IF H5N1 recombines, I will be watching very carefully to see if A H2N2 the 1957 strain is in the mix.
Patricia Doyle
Scientists Rush To Destroy Killer Flu Virus
GENEVA (Reuters) - A killer flu virus, sent to laboratories around the world as part of routine test kits, could trigger a pandemic if it escapes, but the chances of that are low, the World Health Organization said Wednesday.
Senior WHO scientist Dr. Klaus Stohr said the virus, which killed between 1 million and 4 million people in 1957, had been sent to about 3,700 laboratories, nearly all in the United States.
"The virus could cause a global (flu) outbreak. It was an unwise decision to send it out," said Stohr, who heads the United Nations health agency's influenza program.
But the laboratories, which are sent viruses to test their ability to detect strains, are experienced in handling such material and most had already been alerted to the danger, so there was little chance of anyone catching it, he added.
"It is a risk, but it is considered low. It should not lead to a big scare," Stohr said.
The U.S. concern that sent out the virus, the College of American Pathologists (CAP), has issued instructions for all samples to be destroyed and would report to the WHO and U.S. health authorities by Friday on the response, he said.
"By Friday we may be through with this," Stohr said.
The latest alert comes as the WHO is already sounding the alarm over influenza because it fears that a continuing outbreak of bird flu in Asia, if not contained, could eventually trigger a human pandemic.
The 1957 virus has not been used in anti-flu vaccines since 1968, meaning anyone born after that date would carry no immunity to the bug.
It went to some 61 laboratories outside North America, all of which had been contacted, Stohr said.
But it was not certain that all U.S. recipients had been located yet, Stohr said. "There is more detective work to be done there," he added.
He noted that the first batches had been delivered as long ago as last October and that so far there were no reports of any infection.
"We are concerned that so many labs have received it. The risk will be there until the last batch of the virus has been destroyed," Stohr said.
The virus, whose appearance nearly 50 years ago coincided with the so-called Asian influenza pandemic, is spread easily between humans.
It continued to cause annual epidemics for a decade, when it vanished with the emergence of a new virus. As a result, it was no longer considered necessary to include it in vaccines.
"Persons born after 1968 are expected to have no or only limited immunity," the agency said in a statement on its Web Site.
The United Nations health agency was first alerted on March 26 by the Canadian Public Health Agency to the fact that the virus, known as H2N2, had been distributed in kits received by Canadian laboratories.
It was not known why the U.S. concern had chosen such a virulent strain.
"Normally, currently circulating influenza A viruses ... are used for proficiency testing," the WHO said in its statement.
Patricia A. Doyle, PhD
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