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Medicine

More Forgotten Vials of Deadly Diseases Discovered 55

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the keep-a-few-handy dept.
schwit1 (797399) writes FDA officials now admit that when they discovered six undocumented vials of smallpox in a facility in Maryland they also found 327 additional vials that contained dengue, influenza, and rickettsia. "FDA scientists said they have not yet confirmed whether the newly disclosed vials actually contained the pathogens listed on their labels. The agency is conducting a nationwide search of all cold storage units for any other missing samples. Investigators destroyed 32 vials containing tissue samples and a non-contagious virus related to smallpox. Several unlabeled vials were sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for testing and the remaining 279 samples were shipped to the Department of Homeland Security for safekeeping." The FDA's deputy director is quoted with what might be the understatement of the year. "The reasons why these samples went unnoticed for this long is something we're actively trying to understand."
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More Forgotten Vials of Deadly Diseases Discovered

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  • Homeland Security (Score:4, Insightful)

    by VorpalRodent (964940) on Thursday July 17, 2014 @02:49PM (#47477625)

    So, the department that pretends to keep me safe on airplanes is now also the one that pretends to keep me safe from deadly airborne pathogens?

    Why is the CDC not holding on to these for safekeeping? Their obvious failure here notwithstanding, I'd think that this is more their bailiwick than DHS's.

    • I'm just going to take my foot out of my mouth before someone else beats me to it. Clearly the wrong agency. I'll go back to lurking in the corner.
      • My guess is that it's probably a regulation of some sort. DHS will probably give the samples to the CDC, but I bet there's a regulation saying that the FDA can't give it directly to the CDC.

    • I think you meant to say:

      "the remaining 279 samples were shipped to the Department of Homeland Security for safekeeping"

      What could possibly go wrong?

      • Hey, kudos to whomever diverted them from Ft. Detrick to the NIH, back in the day. Anonymous, forgotten hero.

        • Hey, kudos to whomever diverted them from Ft. Detrick to the NIH, back in the day. Anonymous, forgotten hero.

          What I am wondering is: why do they even care whether the pathogens in the vials are actually what is on the labels?

          They're trying to verify one endangerment of pubic health by further endangering public health.

          I mean, they're not even saving money. Incinerate the lot, using the standard procedures for doing so, and have done with it.

          • by myrdos2 (989497)
            They probably want to know if there was actually a flaw in their handling procedures, and if it has since been corrected.
          • What I am wondering is: why do they even care whether the pathogens in the vials are actually what is on the labels?

            They care because anybody can write a label saying "smallpox virus" and stick it on a vial. But if the vial actually *does* contain smallpox virus, then there were flawed procedures that let that virus be sent out to East Bumfuck with no records kept. And those flawed procedures might still be in place, in which case it is urgent that they get fixed.

            • They care because anybody can write a label saying "smallpox virus" and stick it on a vial. But if the vial actually *does* contain smallpox virus, then there were flawed procedures that let that virus be sent out to East Bumfuck with no records kept. And those flawed procedures might still be in place, in which case it is urgent that they get fixed.

              That does make sense. But the interesting thing is, we already know there are flawed procedures in their improved procedures (reference the containment failures in recent years), so I would argue that they are actually increasing public risks by doing it this way.

              I could be wrong. Maybe there are still really big, undiscovered holes in their procedures that need to be fixed. But there are already pretty big known holes.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Next major emergency you may want to think twice about accepting "emergency blankets".

    • by clovis (4684)

      So, the department that pretends to keep me safe on airplanes is now also the one that pretends to keep me safe from deadly airborne pathogens?

      Why is the CDC not holding on to these for safekeeping? Their obvious failure here notwithstanding, I'd think that this is more their bailiwick than DHS's.

      The samples are begin sent to Fort Detrick's The National Biodefense Analysis and Countermeasures Center, so it kinda makes sense.

    • by AHuxley (892839)
      The DHS got parts of what was the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, National Biological Warfare Defense Analysis Center, Plum Island Animal Disease Center, parts of the HHS (Strategic National Stockpile National Disaster Medical System later returned?) and has some form of 'emergency prevention' or "response, recovery, and mitigation" powers.
      Add in ideas like the National Biosurveillance Integration Center (NBIC) for rapid identification, characterisation, localisation, and tracking via integrate
    • by jittles (1613415)

      So, the department that pretends to keep me safe on airplanes is now also the one that pretends to keep me safe from deadly airborne pathogens?

      Why is the CDC not holding on to these for safekeeping? Their obvious failure here notwithstanding, I'd think that this is more their bailiwick than DHS's.

      Maybe I need to wear a little less tinfoil but how are they going to plan their next airport terrorist attack if they don't have some biological weapons to use? ;)

  • by gurps_npc (621217) on Thursday July 17, 2014 @02:54PM (#47477653) Homepage
    Because that's where half the small things I lose are.

    Keys, TV remote control, coins, vials of Ebola,

  • by twistedcubic (577194) on Thursday July 17, 2014 @03:01PM (#47477699)
    ...they will discover Scully's tissue samples in that hidden file cabinet.
  • Does no one in the federal government have a smartphone? Why are there no pictures of the vials being pulled from dusty refrigerators?

    • by ArcadeMan (2766669) on Thursday July 17, 2014 @03:06PM (#47477727)

      If you want to see a container with a pathogen in it, I could check my own fridge. There's something labeled "casserole 2003" but that can't possibly be right.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Some people are interested in doing their job correctly, rather than uploading photos of themselves juggling smallpox vials to Facebook. I know it's hard to believe that such people might be working for the federal government, but it can still happen.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Why is homeland security getting shipped 279 samples and not the CDC to destroy them?

  • by ganjadude (952775) on Thursday July 17, 2014 @03:11PM (#47477761) Homepage
    it seems the federal governments MO these days.
    first you lie "it was a movie!!!"
    when you get caught, you only admit the small details of what you got caught with "well, it was only a rogue agent, it was not sent down from above"
    then you drag it out as long as you can "we are having internal investigations to ensure this isolated incident does not ever happen again"
    Then you get caught in more than you initially got caught in "well, WHAT DIFFERENCE DOES IT MAKE!!!!"
    then you make up more lies to cover up the lies that you got caught in to begin with (all while blaming the other political party for witch hunts, eventhough they have been right)

    This seems to be the case for the IRS, the DOJ, the FBI, the NSA, the white house etc. I would be more shocked if they told us no, that really was just a single vial, and it be truthful
    • by AHuxley (892839)
      We are in the days of "well, WHAT DIFFERENCE DOES IT MAKE!!!!"
      The days of the science/space gap in the 1950's allowed a lot of small regional labs and their skilled staff to get fancy grants and expand.
      You also saw the need for inspected, what was biosafety level 4 been well funded and in remote locations.
      Over time great advances, endless international recognition flowed for a few top sites and their staff.
      Other new and old institutions, states became more enraged as they where seen as falling behind d
  • Wow, they really need to clean up their storage lockers more often. That being said, I don't know how they lost track of them unless it was a specific person doing research at both places and they moved their materials. I wouldn't be surprised if there are/were reams of related research materials.
  • by Aryden (1872756)
    So glad I no longer work in that office.
  • by karstdiver (541054) on Thursday July 17, 2014 @04:15PM (#47478155)
    A quick search for "unsolved anthrax cases" turned up a WSJ article that mentions a facility in MD. I wonder if any connection between those cases and these "missing" vials?
  • Just about everything works like this, as in, fails to work. The Postal Service employee who delivers my mail often wears pajamas and nearly ran me off the road a couple of weeks ago with my two year old in the car. Hell, the Atlanta Braves are moving out of the city in a few years. Perhaps it's no coincidence that The Walking Dead is filmed in Georgia. All those zombie movies may have been more realistic than we imagined.
  • ...for so long.

    I'm going with some agency who considered obscurity and secrecy to be effective means of insuring safety neglected to pass on the details of what they were securing to the appropriate agencies that were taking over the care and handling of these vials. That and the agency taking over the care and handling never bothered to review what information was being handed over, and possibly discarded and destroyed the records when they met the agencies 'retain until' date for some category that those

  • And this is exactly what will happen at the NBAF [ON A UNIVERSITY CAMPUS, FFS] in a handful of years, for man is a sloppy, lazy beast.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Bio_and_Agro-Defense_Facility [wikipedia.org]

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