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 May 13, 2005
All Samples of Deadly Flu Virus Outside U.S. Are Found: WHO
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All but one of the deadly flu virus samples mistakenly sent to labs outside the United States have been destroyed, the World Health Organization said Wednesday.

The last remaining sample had been missing in Beirut, Lebanon, but was found at the airport and will be destroyed shortly, BBC News reported, citing statements from WHO officials.

Previously missing samples in Mexico and South Korea have also been located and destroyed.

Laboratories in the United States received most of the 3,747 kits mistakenly sent out in October and February. According to the most recent reports, 98 percent of those U.S. samples have also been destroyed, although "there are still some U.S. labs that haven't confirmed the destruction of the samples they were sent," a WHO spokesman, Maria Cheng, told the Associated Press.

The kits contained an "Asian flu" strain, called H2N2, which killed between 1 million and 4 million people worldwide in 1957-58. That strain hasn't been part of flu vaccines since 1968. So anyone born after that date has little or no immunity to the germ, a fact that raised fears that the shipments could inadvertently trigger a flu pandemic.

The pathogens that were accidentally distributed to the labs around the world are used widely in research, which could include developing potential new vaccines or anti-viral drugs. They are also used in quality control or to verify if a new test actually works. Most of the samples were sent at the request of the College of American Pathologists, which helps labs do proficiency testing.

U.S. health officials have said they would work with pathologists and other health organizations to establish better guidelines for lab testing of germs like H2N2.


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