All Killer Flu Samples Found

Health : FLU - Hand holding a petrie dish with Influenza Gram Stain, and heart rhythmn with a caduceus and medical staff member in mask AP / CBS

All samples of the killer influenza virus mistakenly sent outside the United States have been destroyed except for one in Lebanon, the U.N. health agency said Wednesday.

The sample that had gone missing in Beirut "was found at the airport," said Maria Cheng, spokeswoman for the World Health Organization. "That will be destroyed soon."

A Health Ministry official in Lebanon said on Wednesday that the world's last missing sample of the killer influenza virus was found and that Lebanese authorities are keeping it in a "safe place."

The sample was found at Beirut's International Airport and officials are waiting for orders from the U.N. World Health Organization on whether to destroy in Beirut or send it back to them.

"It is at the airport. It is sealed in a safe place," Dr. Walid Ammar, the Health Ministry's director general, told The Associated Press. "We are sure it's the missing sample."

"Everything is under control," he added, responding to a question whether there are any dangers.

Previously unaccounted for samples sent to Mexico and South Korea also have been destroyed, Cheng said.

Because of fears of a global pandemic should the virus be released, WHO has been urging the destruction of the 50-year-old H2N2 virus. The kits were sent to 61 laboratories in 18 countries outside the United States.

Cheng said South Korean officials had previously reported to WHO that they had destroyed half the samples they had been sent but hadn't confirmed that they had also destroyed the other half. The destruction of all the samples sent to South Korea has now been confirmed, she said.

A missing shipment to Mexico has been tracked down in a warehouse and has also been destroyed, she added.

"There are still some laboratories in the United States that haven't confirmed the destruction of the samples they were sent," Cheng said, adding that at last word 98 percent of the U.S. samples had been destroyed.

U.S. laboratories received the vast majority of the 3,747 kits sent out in October and February.

The so-called "Asian flu" strain of 1957 killed between 1 million and 4 million people. It has not been included in flu vaccines since 1968, and anyone born after that date has little or no immunity to it.

Most of the samples were sent starting last year at the request of the College of American Pathologists, which helps labs do proficiency testing.
  • Jaime Holguin

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