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Medicine

GlaxoSmithKline Released 45 Liters of Live Polio Virus 209

ferespo sends this news out of Belgium: As reported to ECDC by Belgian authorities, on 2 September 2014, following a human error, 45 liters of concentrated live polio virus solution were released into the environment by the pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline in Rixensart city, Belgium. The liquid was conducted directly to a water-treatment plant (Rosieres) and released after treatment in river Lasne affluent of river Dyle which is affluent of the Escaut/Scheldt river. Belgium's High Council of Public Health conducted a risk assessment that concluded that the risk of infection for the population exposed to the contaminated water is extremely low due to the high level of dilution and the high vaccination coverage (95%) in Belgium.
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GlaxoSmithKline Released 45 Liters of Live Polio Virus

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  • by cristiroma ( 606375 ) on Friday October 03, 2014 @02:14PM (#48057947)
    And see what happens ...
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by BitterOak ( 537666 )
      This is Europe, so probably around six months in prison.
      • You're talking about the same Europe where people have actually been put on trial for 2 different genocides, which is the only continent where anyone has ever done that?

        Because, I'm pretty sure that they threw Milosevic in jail until the day he died. And Nuremberg didn't go great for the Nazis either.

        • Killing millions of people due to a virus release is not genocide as it it not targeted at a specific ethnic or national group.

          • by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Friday October 03, 2014 @03:01PM (#48058387)

            Killing millions of people due to a virus release is not genocide as it it not targeted at a specific ethnic or national group.

            It would be targeted at those too stupid to get vaccinated.

            • And those unfortunate enough not to be able to be vaccinated.

              • by LWATCDR ( 28044 )

                Not that much of an issue really in western europe or even europe.

                • by Frobnicator ( 565869 ) on Friday October 03, 2014 @04:31PM (#48058991) Journal

                  And those unfortunate enough not to be able to be vaccinated.

                  Not that much of an issue really in western europe or even europe.

                  So many responses are like "meh, polio, who cares."

                  The devastating effects of this virus are obviously forgotten by this generation. It results in paralysis that is fatal when it hits things like lungs and hearts, and results in sometimes temporary, sometimes life-long paralysis in many victims. I knew people who permanently lost their ability to talk, others with one paralyzed leg, others who lost an arm, others with distorted facial muscles and other ugly effects. In the early 1960s when it was released people lined up for the vaccine, they would lie, cheat, and steal to get the vaccine when supplies were still limited.

                  In you're case, you're basically discounting anyone under age 6? Polio is a 4-dose vaccination where the last dose usually isn't until age 4-6. Google says that is a half million people in Belgium. That's "not much of an issue"?

                  Anyone who has had a reaction to one of the components and cannot have the series, they also are irrelevant? It's probably a million or so of the population. Again, you're okay with them getting a permanently disabling disease?

                  The vaccines are not 100% effective, many people who were vaccinated according to schedule are still able to become sick. No idea what the percentage is, but anything other than 0 is too much. Are they really not that important?

                  What would you think if it was YOU or a loved one in the hospital bed, hooked up to a ventilator because your lungs were paralyzed, hoping that the paralysis is temporary in your case.

                  Now, if we could limit the infections just to anti-vaxers (not the innocent children of anti-vaxers) that would be something else entirely. Anti-vax for chicken pox or milder diseases are not that bad, but anti-vax for polio and other seriously ravaging diseases is just stupid.

                  Polio is so close to global eradication. I applaud those like the Gates Foundation that are funding killing off the last few known wild cases.

                • by gutnor ( 872759 )

                  Wait - that's still an issue, vaccine are not 100% efficient, so some people take the shot and are not vaccinated. Some people are too weak despite being vaccinated, very young babies are not yet vaccinated, some people think they are vaccinated but they were not ( after all you were like 2 to 6 months old when that happened, all the proof you have is a note in a book - mistake happen ).

                  • by ESD ( 62 )

                    all the proof you have is a note in a book - mistake happen ).

                    Not anymore, at least not in Belgium. The doctor peels the label off the exact shot you got and puts it into the book. After the fourth shot (around 14 months), they fill out a form that you then have to return to the municipality to prove that your kid had their basic Polio vaccinations (there's one more around 6 yrs), which ones and when, so there are at least three separate registrations.

                    Polio is the only mandatory vaccination in Belgium and they take it fairly seriously. Personally, we take all vaccinat

                • Yes it is. Not because of availability, but other issues like allergies or compromised immune systems.

        • by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Friday October 03, 2014 @02:54PM (#48058315)

          You're talking about the same Europe where people have actually been put on trial for 2 different genocides, which is the only continent where anyone has ever done that?

          Nonsense. There is a long history of "victor's justice" on every continent. I'll only be impressed when the winners put their own people on trial. Lt William Calley got off with the "Nuremberg defense" that he was only following orders, while his superiors got off with the defense that "Hey, I was just giving orders, I didn't actually shoot anyone myself."

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Because, I'm pretty sure that they threw Milosevic in jail until the day he died.

          Kind of. He died during his trial. That is the true European way: not harsh prison sentences, but Kafkaesque trials that last until the defendant dies, freeing Europe of the necessity of feeling bad for having imposed a sentence.

        • I dont know that you wanna hold Nuremberg up as your paragon of justice, actually. Something something kangaroos.

      • by jopsen ( 885607 )

        This is Europe, so probably around six months in prison.

        Yeah... but in the US... they company would get off with a fine :)

  • That Wolf Blitzer has at the moment. Between this and Ebola, CNN has the next few months of programming on a silver platter.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      That Wolf Blitzer has at the moment.

      I KNOW, RIGHT?!?!?!!! teehee hee hee giggle giggle *SNORT*

      Signed,
      Anderson Cooper

  • But haven't we eradicated polio? Of what use, then, is cultivating concentrated polio?

    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 03, 2014 @02:23PM (#48058035)

      You're thinking of smallpox. Polio is still endemic in pakistan/afghanistan/india.

      • by halivar ( 535827 )

        Thanks, AC. Then it makes good sense that they have a stockpile, I assume for making vaccine.

      • by Frobnicator ( 565869 ) on Friday October 03, 2014 @04:48PM (#48059105) Journal

        It is very nearly eradicated globally. Good thing too.

        The paralysis aspect is horrible. Those who got the disease didn't know if they would be hit by the paralysis. Those who were hit with the paralysis didn't know if it would become permanent.

        Some people who had the paralysis hit lungs or heart and didn't make it to the hospital quickly enough were occasionally considered lucky. Some very unfortunate people were condemned to spend the rest of their lives on a ventilator. I knew several people (most are dead today) who had deformed faces, arms, and legs from the virus resulting in permanent paralysis. I knew several older folks with a gravely whispered voice as a result of the paralysis. I heard horror stories about people fighting in lines as the vaccine became available in the 1960s.

        Last year the WHO declared a surge in polio as a world health emergency, it had jumped from below 200 globally known cases to over 400.

        They track the progress and update it weekly. the web site says there are 209 year to date [polioeradication.org] with a new outbreak in Syria.

        It is a horrible, destructive disease. The Gates Foundation has made enormous donations, $1.8B last year. This year the Larry Ellison foundation threw in another $100M. The disease is so incredibly close to global eradication, it just needs that one final little nudge to the finish line.

        • by mirix ( 1649853 ) on Friday October 03, 2014 @07:02PM (#48060053)

          It was very nearly eradicated. Then the CIA had stooges in Pakistan take DNA samples during polio vaccinations to "track down bin laden", and (reasonably) there is now a suspicion that vaccines are some kind of american evil project there, and resistance. derp.

          They could have buried a fake corpse at sea a few years earlier and saved a lot of lives and disability-years of life instead. I'd like to have heard the logic that came up with that plan.

    • by SJester ( 1676058 ) on Friday October 03, 2014 @02:27PM (#48058073) Journal
      We have not eradicated polio; in fact, there's an outbreak now in Syria because of poor conditions and missed vaccinations. The vaccine is manufactured from the virus, hence why a drug company had a supply of active virus.
  • How the fuck does this even happen? What were they doing with a ANY number of liters of polio near the water?
    • What were they doing with a ANY number of liters of polio near the water?

      If you read the summary you would see the following;

      The liquid was conducted directly to a water-treatment plant

      Coupled with the reference to "human error" error it appears that someone poured the wrong barrel down the drain.

      • The barrel should have been clearly marked with bio-hazard labels. Who pours a bio-hazard barrel into a regular drain? It doesn't matter what is in the barrel, it shouldn't go into the drain under any circumstance if it has that label on it.

        Either the liquid got transferred into an unlabeled barrel, or someone working in an infectious disease lab doesn't know what a bio-hazard label looks like (which is a scary thought).

        • or the person who put the initial culture in the barrel did not put the bio hazard labels on the barrel of growth media.

  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna ( 970587 ) on Friday October 03, 2014 @02:35PM (#48058145) Journal
    Let us not overreact:

    45 liters, even concentrated, of polio virus does not pose great danger, especially since it went into a modern sewage treatment facility. I am a polio victim myself, got it in 1966, 10 years after Salk released the vaccine in USA, but I was in rural South India with very very poor sanitary conditions. All through high school in every class I had another polio victim, typical class sizes are 50 to 60 in India at that time. So it works out to some 4% of the sample population (account for survivor bias, the dead victims did not make it into this sample). I was lucky, lost just part functionality in one leg. Right now in the slums of India, Pakisan and Bangladesh people are living constantly exposed to polio and still the infection rate is not all that high. So we need not go hyperbolic with this news.

    Let us not underreact

    We are giving more and more rights to the corporations, equating money with speech and even religious beliefs to corporations. But when it comes to criminal penalties they get to use limited liability corporation laws. Do not go after the underlings. Top management should not be able to create policy documents on one hand, then create incentive systems that encourage the violation of the same policies, and claim immunity, "Well, that employee violated our own established policy. It is her fault. Don't you think of touching my bonus!". Nominal financial penalties for those who were negligent are in order. But extraordinary penalties, amounting to all the pay and bonuses collected by the upper management in the last five or ten years should be assessed. Their performance review policies should be reviewed, and if they have practices that create perverse incentives to violate their own corporate policies, even harsher penalties are in order.

    • It appears that someone accidentally dumped the wrong bucket down the drain .
      From that, you infer:

      > create incentive systems that encourage the violation of the same policies, and claim immunity, ... Nominal financial penalties for those who were negligent are in order. But extraordinary penalties, amounting to all the pay and bonuses collected by the upper management in the last five or ten years should be assessed.

      At this point, we have no idea what policies were in place, what the incentives were, or

      • by 140Mandak262Jamuna ( 970587 ) on Friday October 03, 2014 @03:35PM (#48058631) Journal

        It appears that someone accidentally dumped the wrong bucket down the drain . From that, you infer:

        > create incentive systems that encourage the violation of the same policies, and claim immunity, ... Nominal financial penalties for those who were negligent are in order. But extraordinary penalties, amounting to all the pay and bonuses collected by the upper management in the last five or ten years should be assessed.

        >

        It is 45 liters of concentrated virus. It is polio this time it could be just simple salmonella or E Coli next time or ebola. The point is not to look one person dumping the wrong bucket. Something as serious as concentrated polio vaccine should not have reached this person pouring stuff down the drain. Every ml every drop of dangerous viruses and bacteria must be accounted for. There should be clear audit trails about who is getting what and how it was disposed of eventually. There should be a clear protocols to track it. One should not be able to get 45 liters of polio in ones hand to dump. Setting up procedures like this costs money. That is where the company cut costs. That is where perverse incentives come in. The top honchos will have a policy directive that says "you must follow these procedures to handle viruses classified as ABC". Then do not hire enough people to enforce the policy. If any team lead points it out, ruin that person's advancement and as an example to others. Nothing on paper. But everyone understands why the promising career of Dr XYZ suddenly foundered. That is how it is done. That is what we should go after.

        It would be far too easy to fire some low level schmuck and pretend everything is hunky dory.

    • "Well, that employee violated our own established policy. It is her fault. Don't you think of touching my bonus!"

      Bonus, rewards etc. are not within the reach and will be protected fiercely by stakeholders.
      Isolate and jail.

      • There is no honour among thieves. Set up proper ways to rat on their bosses, throw in some incentives for them, you can find enough evidence and witnesses. If the politicians let it happen and if the government goes after them, they can be sent to jail. But the politicians will never will let it happen.
    • by gmuslera ( 3436 )

      If well this is a particulary human harming virus, and in concentrated dosis, let not forget that each drop of sea water have 10 millon virus and 1 millon bacterias (and, hopely, most won't be harmful for humans). We live in a world with them.

      Anyway, what would be the difference between a big corporation doing that by mistake or not, or terrorists announcing that they did exactly the same? Effective or not, that should had been ranked as a biological weapon attack.

      • by khallow ( 566160 )

        Anyway, what would be the difference between a big corporation doing that by mistake or not, or terrorists announcing that they did exactly the same?

        The terrorists would probably not be dumb enough to dumb that into a sewage treatment plant. After all, what's the point of killing off most of your weapon before it even gets to water?

  • Homeopathy (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 03, 2014 @02:36PM (#48058157)

    Homeopaths claim that a very diluted concentration of something harmful can actually be used to treat the symptoms it causes. So GlaxoSmithKline has just created the most potent homeopathic remedy for polio known to man!

  • by JoeyRox ( 2711699 ) on Friday October 03, 2014 @02:36PM (#48058163)
    Would have been useful to takeout all the mindless celebrities who don't vaccinate their children and thus assure a healthier society for us all.
    • Had a neighbor, growing up, who came from the age just before the vaccine - you really don't want to wish that disease on anyone, even if they believe in something erroneous.
    • Now if only someone would invent a virus that quickly and painfully kills compassionless assholes, we'd be all set.

    • It wouldn't take out the celebrities: their parents had them vaccinated long ago.

  • Zoonotic Reservoir (Score:2, Interesting)

    by MetricT ( 128876 )

    I think the real danger is not that little Timmy is going to go swimming and drink some polio, but that it is possible (however unlikely, IANA virologist) for the released polio virus to find a reservoir in some of the local wildlife and cause further trouble at a later date.

  • If this was reported immediately, the sewerage plant could increase their chlorine injection [epa.gov] to far higher levels than usual. Chlorine will destroy polio virus. Sewerage plants usually chlorinate at a modest level to kill bacteria, but in an emergency like this, they can easily crank the levels way up. Sewerage plants are constantly adjusting their systems depending on what's coming in.

    If the safety people at GlaxoSmithKlein, or whoever this was reported to, called the plant operator at the sewer plant,

  • How is it even legal for GlaxoSmithKlein to own LITERS of polio?
  • The links aren't very informative.

    Is it one of the weakened strains that's used for making oral polio vaccine? Those aren't terribly dangerous as they're already given orally to kids. They also tend to be present in the water in the areas oral vaccine is still given, as people shed the vaccine strain virus as they are building immunity.

    Is it a full up wild type polio that might be used at some stage of making the injected vaccine?

    And that's just a couple of questions I've got. Details makes a difference.

  • by PapayaSF ( 721268 ) on Friday October 03, 2014 @04:22PM (#48058919) Journal

    We are regularly told that advanced Western nations shouldn't worry about Ebola, because we have advanced Western medicine, and aren't like those poor and primitive African nations. And then things like this happen. Or the recent CDC biohazard scandals [thewire.com]. Or the hospital in Texas, just trained about Ebola, sends a recent arrival from Liberia who is showing symptoms back to his relatives with some antibiotics. And then, after he vomits on the sidewalk on the way back to the hospital, people without protective gear "clean it up" with a pressure hose, while a sandal-wearing woman walks by [thegatewaypundit.com]. And they reuse the ambulance before they decontaminate it. And the family violates their quarantine.

    So when Top Men tell us there's no danger of an outbreak here, I am not reassured.

    • by Fwipp ( 1473271 )

      Early E bola symptoms are things like "headache, muscle pain, weakness, stomach pain" - basically, it looks like the flu.

      Dude shows up at the hospital, is like "guys I feel kinda sick," they give him the standard treatment "take 2 and call me in the morning." Given that he lied about his risk factors on the travel documentation, I doubt he told the full truth at the hospital.

      He goes home, vomits, goes back to the hospital, where they're like "oh hey, now we can tell what you're sick with, better quarantine

      • Early Ebola symptoms are things like "headache, muscle pain, weakness, stomach pain" - basically, it looks like the flu.

        But he had just arrived from an Ebola zone.

        Dude shows up at the hospital, is like "guys I feel kinda sick," they give him the standard treatment "take 2 and call me in the morning." Given that he lied about his risk factors on the travel documentation, I doubt he told the full truth at the hospital.

        He did tell some people at the hospital he had just arrived from Liberia, but apparently everyone there didn't get the word.

        In the meantime, workers clean up the vomit on the sidewalk, because that's what you do with vomit on the sidewalk.

        You don't clean up Ebola-victim vomit by pressure-washing it, especially without a Hazmat suit, because one droplet landing on a mucus membrane can give you Ebola.

        • by Fwipp ( 1473271 )

          Yeah, but I doubt the people washing it off knew it was Ebola vomit yet, that was what I was trying to communicate.

  • by Greyfox ( 87712 )
    Glaxo makes drugs. Polio is treated by drugs. This sounds like a win/win for Glaxo! Now if some person had released 45 liters of concentrated live polio virus into the water supply, that might be considered a successful act of terrorism, but Glaxo is a corporation, so everyone should see that it's different!
  • by suss ( 158993 ) on Friday October 03, 2014 @09:24PM (#48060763)

    Since this happened a month ago, you should have included the followup story about possible infected shellfish... [dutchnews.nl]

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