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Researchers from Baxter International Inc (Deerfield IL) in Austria unintentionally sent samples contaminated with the bird flu virus to laboratories in the Czech Republic, Slovenia and Germany, raising concern about the potential spread of the deadly disease.

Researchers from Baxter International Inc (Deerfield IL) in Austria unintentionally sent samples contaminated with the bird flu virus to laboratories in the Czech Republic, Slovenia and Germany, raising concern about the potential spread of the deadly disease. The contamination was discovered after ferrets were injected with the vaccine, according to BioTest s.r.o., a biotechnology company based in Konarovice that was working with the immunization in the Czech Republic. The vaccine came from Baxter, which reported the incident to the Austrian Ministry of Health, Sigrid Rosenberger, a spokeswoman for the ministry, said. The vaccine was prepared for use in laboratories, and none of the workers exposed have fallen ill. "This was infected with a bird flu virus," Rosenberger said. "There were some people from the company who handled it. They went to the hospital and were tested and were cleared. There have been no infections."

The Austrian health ministry reported the incident to the European Union and plans to conduct its own audit, she said. The vaccine has been destroyed, according to Rosenberger. The World Health Organization "is aware of the situation and is consulting with the ministers of health of the countries involved to ensure that all public risks arising from this event have been identified and managed appropriately," said Gregory Hartl, a spokesman in Geneva. The news helped send Baxter shares down $7.14, or 12% on the week, to $50.91.

The H5N1 strain of avian flu has been monitored by health officials around the world for more than a decade for signs it could mutate into a form that is easily spread between humans. Currently, it passes mainly between infected poultry. A flu pandemic of avian or other origin could kill more than 70 million people worldwide and lead to a "major global recession" costing more than $3 trillion, according to a worst-case scenario outlined by the World Bank in October.
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Publication:MondayMorning
Article Type:Brief article
Geographic Code:4EUAU
Date:Mar 2, 2009
Words:316
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