- Two women technicians have been quarantined
and vaccinated for suspected bird flu. One is still confined to her house
- and yesterday enraged officials by briefly leaving the property and putting
the public at risk. The other is back at work but is still being regularly
tested for the deadly H5N1 strain of the flu virus.
- Both work in the avian biology section
of the Veterinary Laboratories Agency, which analyses samples from diseased
creatures. They became suspects within eight days of each other. A source
said: "No one can believe that this has happened twice in just over
a week. "There've been accidents in the past, but never in this lab."
- Yesterday an expert warned that even
with no outward sign of the disease, the lab workers could still be lifelong
carriers. The women, aged 25 and 50, are feared to have caught H5N1 after
slashing their hands with infected blood stained needles.
- The 25-year-old pierced herself on Wednesday
while injecting chick embryos with H5N1 during tests. She must spend 10
days in isolation at her home in Addlestone, Surrey, while blood and saliva
are analysed. She has to take her own DNA swabs to prevent cross-contamination.
The samples are collected from her doorstep by couriers. Nurses keep in
regular phone contact. Yesterday, the technician breached Department for
the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs rules by leaving her house.
- Our source said: "Bosses will be
furious she's put people at risk. She'll be kept in isolation for 10 days.
If she doesn't fall ill, she'll be allowed back." The woman was confined
as her colleague was allowed back to work after piercing her protective
gloves while dissecting an infected duck 11 days ago.
- An exclusion zone was placed around the
woman's home in the grounds of the VLA compound in Weybridge, Surrey, while
tests were carried out. The worker has shown no signs of the virus. But
she will continue to be monitored as H5N1 can lie dormant in the body for
- Our insider said: "She came back
when scientists were sure she couldn't spread any infection. They're testing
her regularly to check her condition doesn't change." The technician
only recently transferred to the avian biology section to help deal with
the rising backlog of tests.
- Bird flu expert Clifford Warwick said
yesterday the virus could flare up months after infection. He said: "H5N1
can go undetected in the body for years. "Stress such as surgery could
lower a person's immune system and allow the dormant virus to take hold.
The disease would then be strong enough to get into red blood cells and
could be passed through the air, in the breath or sneezes."
- Defra said the technicians were given
Tamiflu vaccine immediately after their accidents, though it is not a certain
cure for the virus. A spokesman said: "Both were sent home as a precaution.
Neither has shown any ill effects. Both incidents are very low risk."
- The Health Protection Agency yesterday
played down fears of a bird flu pandemic after it was confirmed H5N1 may
have mutated to kill eight members of the same family in Indonesia. Scientists
said the virus died with the last victim and the threat was no greater
- Patricia Doyle, PhD
- Hello Jeff - This story of the two lab workers who stuck
themselves with H5N1 infected needles is so odd. Twice in one week. Odd
- Can you imagine if they had been working with Spanish
Flu or a recombinent of Spanish Flu and H5N1? As the article states,
"there have been accidents in the past." This is why I am so
against pandemic work and resurrecting/working with the Spanish Flu virus.
It was dead, buried for 80 or 90 years, so why bring it back??
- I also found it very disheartening to hear that one of
the quarantined workers broke quarantine and left her home putting the
public at risk! She should have known better. Now we have two women who
may be life-long carriers.
- The public puts so much faith in these labs - and I think
that lab workers need to respect the public far more. I shudder to think
about all of the hastily upgraded BSL 4 labs here in the US...and the riks
to public health.
- Patricia A. Doyle DVM, PhD
- Bus Admin, Tropical Agricultural Economics
- Univ of West Indies
- Please visit my "Emerging Diseases" message
- Also my new website:
- Zhan le Devlesa tai sastimasa
- Go with God and in Good Health