Ron Paul: TB is worse, OK!? The swine flu may be synthetic (I dunno) but more man-made virus pandemics would suck!

"Baxter is the only flu vaccine manufacturer to work with wild type flu viruses, felt to be more dangerous than the altered and attenuated (weakened) viruses other manufacturers use." --Canadian Press [link]

Too bad we don't have wizards anymore. I'd ask one if it's a good idea to make a new devil in order to make a new spell against it.

Smarter wizards probably knew it was better to keep it cool: the bastards -- once incarnated -- have a way of slipping out during the process.

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A modern past-time, Mashable.com for tracking the first Web2.0 mashable epidemic: HOW TO: Track Swine Flu Online Also neat: Alltop - Top Swine Flu News

I was always kinda fascinated with the idea of "Biohazard"... All the varieties of influenza viruses, put together, is kind of like an operating system with a bunch of toggles ('H' and 'N' denote major ones). It is hard for nature to flip a bunch of toggles at once, but genetic scientists, and drugged up pigs, each can flip a ton of toggles very frequently, in their own way.

...Alright so evidently there is a bit of concern that I've lost my mind grumbling about the damn "swine flu" and its sketchiness. I am not flippin about this nasty bug. I say it is probably more than 10 times worse than SARS, but definitely not 100 times worse....

To combine two popular memes: Ron Paul's commentary on the swine flu, how he voted against the Gerald Ford mandatory swine flu vaccine (that killed a bunch of people in the most typical vaccine way), as well as questioning why the hell the Department of Homeland Security is calling the shots (so to speak) with public health.

Often conspiracy-friendly journalist Wayne Madsen sells the "engineered" angle on this as well. More: http://www.waynemadsenreport.com/articles/20090425

April 25-26, 2009 -- SPECIAL BULLETIN. New swine flu feared to be weaponized strain

According to two mainstream media journalists, one in Mexico City and the other in Jakarta, who spoke to WMR on background, they are convinced that the current outbreak of a new strain of swine flu in Mexico and some parts of the United States is the result of the introduction of a human-engineered pathogen that could result in a widespread global pandemic, with potentially catastrophic consequences for domestic and international travel and commerce.

The journalists have been told by top officials of the United Nations and the World Health Organization (WHO) about the grave dangers posed by the new and deadly swine flu strain, known as A-H1N1. The flu, never before seen by scientists, has already killed up to 68 people in Mexico ...... [.........]

Our Mexico City source said a top scientist for the United Nations, who has examined the outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus in Africa, as well as HIV/AIDS victims, concluded that H1N1 possesses certain transmission "vectors" that suggest that new flu strain has been genetically-manufactured as a military biological warfare weapon. The UN expert believes that Ebola, HIV/AIDS, and the current A-H1N1 swine flu virus are biological warfare agents. [impossible!!]

Our Jakarta source said WHO officials are afraid that the presence of gene segments from dreaded H5N1 bird flu in the A-H1N1 swine flu strain could mean that the new swine flu strain was engineered to "jump species." WMR has been informed that the CDC and U.S. Army dug up the body of an Inuit woman who died in 1918 in Brevig Mission, Alaska from an outbreak of Spanish flu. The influenza pandemic that year killed up to 100 million people worldwide in an 18-month period. Brevig Mission saw 72 of its 80 residents die within five days, the worst case recorded anywhere in the world. WMR has been told the genetic material recovered by the U.S. government from the corpse of the Inuit woman provided the basis for the development of the H5N1, or bird (avian), flu strain at the U.S. Army Medical Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) laboratory at Fort Detrick, Maryland, the point of origin for the Ames strain of anthrax used in the 2001 bio-war attacks against the U.S. Congress and the media.

Sooo... that's the biggie theory, then. The political question is whether the nasty petri dishes at CDC and USAMRIID will be seen in any kind of critical light.

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What bugs me is: an accident with one of the beastly lab bugs they create nowadays would look EXACTLY like this. The structure of the virus basically reeks of human genetic engineering, not random chance in nature. I don't know if it originated synthetically rather than organically -- who does? It's not important - what's important is that the synthetic flu could strike (again?).

The style of this "influenza A swine H1N1" thing seems just like the other weird flu virus hybrids that labs are synthesizing in huge amounts. I don't like the sound of this at all. Anything involving viruses and stuff gives the creepy-crawlies, and it should - we're talking about powerful, cascading pathogens.

The possibility of lab accidents with novel viruses and life forms (let alone "mad scientists" or evil schemes) is, to me, a greater likely source of weird viruses getting out and sparking pandemics than Mexican swine farms. [Comparable, but...]

If there's a critical stance to take, it's that the biological sciences industries want to keep chugging away and secretly ("competitively") mixing this stuff around in order to have stocks of new lifeforms and pathogens that are marketable. With pandemic vaccine development in particular, scientists often want to whip up the very combinations of proteins (and other traits) that they most fear arising in the wild.

All they have to do is lose a few grains of their test virus batches - or even worse, let some get combined in a hapless lab animal or lab worker - and then you have a totally new entity.

Nature can only make these virus remixes at a low rate; the CDC and other labs are turbocharging evolution and randomly throwing stuff together.

From the engineering side, viruses are not even that big, compared to full cells. If one has access to a lot of different types of diseases, the patterns can be found and mixed around, then amplified into huge quantities of brand-new pathogens.

The nasty Mexican swine farms and everything could also act as viral (and bacterial) amplifiers and mixers, certainly. Factory farming, with its doses of antibiotics, turbocharges bacterial and viral evolution.

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Conspiracy fun with homeland security bird flu trucks! It's a bit of a bummer to see people freaking out, but maybe some alarm is actually directed in a useful way. Never fear - there is plenty of fun conspiracy stuff going around. Something about Homeland Security moving around bird flu on PowerHour. Why not? Plenty of names and details for the true fans :-D
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iSV7jVOjIwQ
Includes some sort of Syracuse CIA front. How depressing would it be to work in a Syracuse CIA bio-scheme front? hah.

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I have been giving Baxter a hard time. Mainly, the Baxter incident shows that no one really wants to raise alarm about the risk of lab-created bugs. Now, they are looking all prime & ready to go:

Baxter to work to contain Mexico flu outbreak April 25, 2009 2:28 PM

Deerfield-based medical product giant Baxter International Inc. is working with the World Health Organization on a potential vaccine to curb the spread of the swine flu outbreak in Mexico, the company confirmed today.

Baxter, which has a growing vaccine business, has worked with foreign countries in the past to develop vaccines for the H5N1 virus commonly known as bird flu. Baxter has a cell-based technology that allows the company to more rapidly produce vaccines in the event of a pandemic than a decades-old method that uses eggs to process vaccines and can take weeks or even months longer.

"Upon learning about the swine flu outbreak in Mexico yesterday, Baxter requested a virus sample from WHO to do laboratory testing for potentially developing an experimental vaccine," company spokesman Christopher Bona told the Tribune this afternoon. "Baxter has research and development and manufacturing pandemic planning expertise to rapidly develop candidate vaccines against potentially emerging influenza viruses."

In the past, Baxter has developed vaccines and worked with countries to stockpile vaccines even while they undergo experimental testing. The idea behind the government stockpiles, in the case of the bird flu, for example, is to prepare against outbreak.

The company would not say whether the U.S. or other countries have contacted Baxter. Other companies, too, develop vaccines and have been used to stockpile vaccines. It's unclear whether other vaccine makers have also contacted the WHO.

Because it's so early in the vaccine development process, Baxter would not estimate on when a candidate vaccine would emerge for potential use.

The Mexican government is working to control a swine flu outbreak that has killed more than 65 people and potentially infected more than 1,000 in recent weeks, according to government and news reports. -- Bruce Japsen

The problem with Baxter, and this whole scene, is that Baxter sent out live avian flu and human flu, in the same cases, all over Europe, and no one seems to give a damn or realize what that might have done.

Thanks, Canadian Press!

How were bird flu viruses sent to unsuspecting labs? Updated Thu. Feb. 26 2009 7:45 AM ET The Canadian Press

Officials are trying to get to the bottom of how vaccine manufacturer Baxter International Inc. made "experimental virus material" based on a human flu strain but contaminated with the H5N1 avian flu virus and then distributed it to an Austrian company.

That company, Avir Green Hills Biotechnology, then disseminated the supposed H3N2 virus product to subcontractors in the Czech Republic, Slovenia and Germany. Authorities in the four European countries are looking into the incident, and their efforts are being closely watched by the World Health Organization and the European Centre for Disease Control.

Though it appears none of the 36 or 37 people who were exposed to the contaminated product became infected, the incident is being described as "a serious error" on the part of Baxter, which is on the brink of securing a European licence for an H5N1 vaccine. That vaccine is made at a different facility, in the Czech Republic.

"For this particular incident ... the horse did not get out (of the barn)," Dr. Angus Nicoll of the ECDC said from Stockholm.

"But that doesn't mean that we and WHO and the European Commission and the others aren't taking it as seriously as you would any laboratory accident with dangerous pathogens - which you have here."

Accidental release of a mixture of live H5N1 and H3N2 viruses - if that indeed happened - could have resulted in dire consequences. Nicoll said officials still aren't 100 per cent sure the mixture contained live H5N1 viruses. But given that ferrets exposed to the mixture died, it likely did.

H5N1 doesn't easily infect people, but H3N2 viruses do. They are one of two types of influenza A viruses that infect people each flu season.

If someone exposed to the mixture had been co-infected with H5N1 and H3N2, the person could have served as an incubator for a hybrid virus able to transmit easily to and among people. That mixing process, called reassortment, is one of two ways pandemic viruses are created.

Research published last summer by scientists at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control found that in the laboratory, H5N1 and H3N2 viruses mated readily. While less virulent than H5N1, a number of the offspring viruses appeared to retain at least a portion of the killing power of their dangerous parent.

Baxter International, which is based in Deerfield, Ill., said the contamination was the result of an error in its research facility in Orth-Donau, Austria.

The facility had been contracted by Avir Green Hills to make what Baxter refers to as "experimental virus material" based on human H3N2 viruses.

Christopher Bona, Baxter's director of global bioscience communications, said the liquid virus product was not a vaccine and was developed for testing purposes only. He deferred questions about the purpose of the testing to Avir Green Hills, but said the batch was to be used in animals and was never intended for use in humans.

Avir Green Hills said in an email that it took possession of the material in late December. It later sent the product to the sub-contractors. The email said the material was stored and handled throughout under high biosafety conditions.

Alarm bells rang in early February when researchers at the Czech sub-contractor inoculated ferrets with the material and the animals promptly died. Baxter learned about the problem on Feb. 6, Bona said from Deerfield.

Ferrets are susceptible to human flu strains, but they don't die from those infections. Preliminary investigation found the material was contaminated with H5N1 flu virus, which is lethal to ferrets.

Nicoll said the fact the ferrets died supports the working assumption that there were live H5N1 viruses in the material Baxter produced.

Bona said Baxter has identified how the contamination happened and has taken steps to ensure it doesn't happen again. He said Austrian authorities audited Baxter's Orth-Donau research operations after the problem came to light and are satisfied with the steps taken.

Baxter is the only flu vaccine manufacturer to work with wild type flu viruses, felt to be more dangerous than the altered and attenuated (weakened) viruses other manufacturers use.

The company uses what is known as BSL3 level precautions in all its vaccine research facilities, Bona said. (Researchers at the U.S. CDC use BSL3-plus biocontainment when working with H5N1 viruses, a spokesperson for the agency said.)

People familiar with biosecurity rules are dismayed by evidence that human H3N2 and avian H5N1 viruses have somehow co-mingled in the Baxter research facility. That should not be allowed to happen, a number of experts insisted.

The company isn't shedding much light on how it did.

"It was a combination of just the process itself, (and) technical and human error in this procedure," Bona said. When asked to elaborate, he said to do so would give away proprietary information about Baxter's production process.

Bona said when Baxter realized its error, it helped the various companies destroy the contaminated material and clean up their facilities. And staff who had been exposed to the contaminated product were assessed and monitored by infectious diseases doctors. They were also offered the antiviral drug oseltamivir (Tamiflu).

Baxter's error is reminiscent of a 2005 incident where a U.S. manufacturer of kits used by laboratories to test their detection capabilities included vials of H2N2 virus in several thousand proficiency kits. H2N2, the virus that caused the 1957 pandemic, has not circulated since 1968 and is thought to be a prime candidate to cause the next pandemic. That mistake, discovered by Canada's National Microbiology Laboratory, set authorities around the world scrambling to retrieve and destroy the vials of virus, which had been sent to labs in 18 countries.

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