This is by Brian Sutton, DC.  Because he did a great job breaking this story I’m going to leave it as-is — thanks Brian:

A small number of international news sources (but none I could find in the U.S. press) are reporting on an event that happened recently involving an influenza vaccine produced by the U.S.-based pharmaceutical company, Baxter. It seems that while doing a routine check on a new shipment of H3N2 seasonal flu vaccines, a subcontractor in the Czech Republic noticed a problem. Normally, the vaccine has little effect when injected into ferrets, although they may become ill if some remnants of the virus are still viable. However, this time the ferrets died.

Further investigation revealed that the vaccine, which had also been shipped to Slovenia and Germany, contained a live H5N1 avian flu virus. Somehow, a live experimental culture of avian flu was mixed into the influenza vaccine before shipment. This is especially disturbing since the avian flu, which is not as easily spread as influenza, could become very contagious through a process called “reassortment” when mixed with something spread by airborne contact like influenza. Reassortment is one process responsible for many pandemic viruses. According to experts, “Accidental release of a mixture of live H5N1 and H3N2 viruses could have resulted in dire consequences.”13

At least four countries are conducting investigations into the incident, which critics say should not have been possible because of the number of safeguards that are supposedly in place, leading to a number of interesting speculations and one or two rather disturbing conspiracy theories.14

13. Branswell H. “Baxter: Product Contained Live Bird Flu Virus.” Toronto Sun, May 5, 2009.
14. “‘Accidental’ Contamination of Vaccine With Live Avian Flu Virus Virtually Impossible.”

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