Sunday, January 01, 2012

5th estate obtains University of Texas prelim report on "accidental" H5N1 lab release

Taking no chances now by releasing H5N1 at multiple points around world trying to avoid pinpointing origin of virus; preliminary lab incident report at bottom

By Pamela Drew

The story of the mysterious, dead birds in Austin was proclaimed solved by the Associated Press today. That's simply not true, actually nothing could be farther from the truth. A potentially deadly accident occurred and the parties responsible for public safety are busy covering up the event. Thanks to being in the loop on a research network, the updates are coming to me via e-mail. It seems almost like BREAKING NEWS; we are at the leading edge of the story, even if, it's not leading by much.

On January 12, The Sunshine Project released details of the accident at the University with the following in the report:
According UT records obtained by the Sunshine Project, the accident happened on a Wednesday afternoon, 12 April 2006. A postdoc was working in the Molecular Biology Building ("MBB") on the University of Texas campus in Austin, just a couple minutes' walk away from tightly packed dormitories, the kind of place where a virulent new influenza strain might eagerly take hold. A little over a kilometer south is the Texas Capitol and a warren of state office buildings teeming with public employees.
Centrifuge Accident Aerosolizes Genetically Engineered Influenza
The postdoc was working alone in a beefed-up BSL-3 laboratory wearing a full lab suit. A respirator system provided oxygen through an air hose. The high-tech safety measures were in place because the viruses in the lab were not your average flu. They were something much more dangerous. They were genetically engineered influenza strains that mixed and matched genes of the common human H3N2 influenza and those of deadly H5N1 "Bird Flu". The kind of unpredictable reassorted flu strain that public health officials fear could cause the next human pandemic.
BSL-3 Lab
 Keep in mind the people supplying the information are not political bloggers or conspiracy theorists. They are research scientists working with deadly pathogens. They are not prone to panic, or alarmists claims like a well meaning, ill informed group of tree huggers. Nothing against all my tree hugging buddies out there, but these folks aren't like us. They understand far better than most of us will in a lifetime, the risks they deal with and what constitutes cause for concern. They are worried and the University is stonewalling. An open letter and list of questions was sent to the University. They are pasted below and I will keep an eye out for updates and anything leaking from News beyond Newsvine. Links are below.

19 January 2007

An Open Letter to the University of Texas at Austin

Dr. Juan M. Sanchez
Vice President for Research
University of Texas at Austin
P.O. Box 7996, Main Building 302
Austin, TX 78712-1111
By fax (512-471-2827) and e-mail (

Members of the Institutional Biosafety
Committee of the University Of Texas at Austin

Dear Dr. Sanchez and IBC Members:
Laboratory accidents involving highly pathogenic influenza pose a
grave public health risk. On 12 April 2006, the University of Texas
at Austin experienced an incident involving genetically engineered
H5N1 influenza ("Bird Flu") at UT's Molecular Biology Building

Since 12 September 2006, the Sunshine Project has sought to ascertain
details of this incident. Unfortunately, the University of Texas at
Austin has resisted a full public accounting and has produced
inconsistent and fragmented accounts of what occurred. Some of the
University's recent statements to members of the news media directly
contradict the information contained in UT's own documents released
under freedom of information laws.

The Sunshine Project has drafted ten questions for the University
regarding the incident. In the interest of public health and public
accountability, we request that you please promptly answer them.

If you have questions, please don't hesitate to contact me.

Edward Hammond
Ten Questions for the University of Texas at Austin
Concerning the H5N1 Laboratory Incident of 12 April 2006
1) Recently, UT has stated that the virus only contained one gene
from H5N1 and has specified that this gene was a non-structural gene.
Yet the UT accident report refers to "some genes" from H5N1, and the
minutes of the UT Institutional Biosafety Committee specifically
state that "The virus had H5N1 structural proteins included". Please
explain these discrepancies and provide the genetic composition of
the virus involved in the accident.

2) If the University is confident that no leak occurred, why was the
researcher placed on Tamiflu and continued to take Tamiflu for a
week, and;

3) why did the University decontaminate the entire lab "as if the
contamination had occurred"?

4) The University states that it is confident that prior infection
with H3N2 influenza would immunize against the virus used in the lab.
Was the researcher vaccinated against the H3N2 strain before
initiating the work? If not, why not?

5) The UT accident report states "University reseachers DO NOT work
with H5N1. Our researchers work with non-contagious elements of that
virus." Why was the University handling these "non-contagious
elements" of H5N1 at BSL-3?

6) Neither the accident report, nor the IBC minutes, nor the
University's recent statements to reporters are factually consistent.
Why is the University failing to produce a consistent set of facts
and description of this incident?

7) With the sole exception of the IBC minutes, which must be released
under federal guidelines, why did the University petition the
Attorney General for permission to keep every single one of its
records about this incident a secret?

8) Why did the University not report this incident to the National
Institutes of Health, whose Guidelines require (Section IV-B-2-b-(7))
that accidents be reported?

9) What specific facts contained in the University of Texas accident
report released to the Sunshine Project does the University of Texas
now claim are incorrect? Please specifically and clearly enumerate

10) If the University's accident report is seriously flawed, why did
the University release the report with no indication that it contains

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