Friday May 1, 2009
It is impossible to stop the virus spreading virus to Croatia. An immunology scientist confirmed it is possible for a virus to escape a lab.
The new swine flu virus, which is a combination of viruses typical for pigs, birds and people, began spreading at an unstoppable speed. The virus killed at least 149 people in Mexico, it has spread to the United States and Canada and it has been confirmed that it has now spread to Europe and Asia.
As the virus is spreading, the media have began speculating that it had been created in a laboratory as a biological weapon. A UN scientist is convinced that the swine flu virus, A-H1N1, and Ebola and HIV viruses were in fact manufactured biological weapons. A month ago, the Austrian subsidiary of the American pharmaceutical company Baxter “accidentally” sent a bird flu virus to laboratories in neighbouring countries, which proves that a virus can in fact “escape” from a lab. Keeping this in mind, it is completely logical that very few people will believe that vials containing the swine flu virus accidentally exploded in a passenger train in Switzerland during which one person was injured. But scientists claim that that type of virus is not hazardous to humans.
We turned to Dr. Sc. Renata Mazuran from the Croatian Institute of Immunology for an expert opinion. She confirmed for Javno that it is indeed possible for a virus to “escape” from a laboratory and that it could have fatal consequences.
It is impossible that a virus circulates among the population unchanged for 27 years
– A wild virus or a flu virus created by genetic engineering can “escape” from a laboratory. Possible the most serious such incident happened in 1918 when the H1N1 virus, which caused an epidemic, escaped. That virus strain disappeared from the population after a pandemic in 1957. However, in 1977, a H1 virus, identical to the one that had been isolated in 1950, suddenly reappeared, causing a milder epidemic. It is almost completely impossible for a virus to circulate among the population unchanged for 27 years. This means that it “escaped” from laboratory freezers and a lab worker could have been infected. Another way of a virus escaping is a vaccine that was insufficiently attenuated – Mazuran explained. She stressed that there are clear regulations for storage and work with infectious materials.
Mazuran also confirmed that a virus, such as this swine flu, which is a combination of three types of viruses, can be produced in a laboratory.
– But this does not exclude the natural course of development of the virus – she warned.
It should be stressed that after the occurrence of the virus, the shares of pharmaceutical companies went up. One of them is America’s Baxter, which confirmed that it was working on producing a vaccine. On the other hand, Mexican tourism is falling apart and the shares of air carrier companies, tourist agencies, hotels and so on have plummeted.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) raised the emergency threat of a possible pandemic level to 4, which indicates that the virus is easily spread among humans and that it can cause seats that infect entire communities.
Dr. Mazuran explained that it is characteristic of RNA viruses, such as the swine flu, to mutate quickly and that it is not unusual for them to be transmitted among humans.
– We do not know how long this virus has been circulating among the population. The epidemic in Mexico allegedly started in early March – Mazuran said.
It is interesting that the only deaths from the swine flu were registered only in Mexico, while those infected in other countries are recovering well.
– No virus threatens just one race, but it is a fact that certain races are more susceptible to certain viral infections than others – Mazuran explained and added that overpopulation, living standards and hygiene are important factors.
She especially warned that the exact number of infected people must be confirmed by a lab test. The existing lab test is not specific, which is why a new, more specific test is being developed, she said.
Asked if the spreading of the virus could be stopped before it reaches Croatia, Mazuran said no.
In the end she stressed that it takes about eight months to produce a vaccine against the flu and its distribution on the market.