The Austrian branch of U.S. vaccine company Baxter is under close scrutiny by health officials for sending a mix of H3N2 seasonal human flu viruses and unlabelled H5N1 bird flu viruses to other unsuspecting labs around Europe.
Fortunately, a lab in the Czech Republic that received one of these batches tested them on some ferrets. All of the ferrets died, which they were not supposed to do, so they alerted Baxter. You see, ferrets do not die from human H3N2 flu viruses. Further testing confirmed that the sample which the lab in the Czech Republic received contained live H5N1 bird flu virus.
The big unanswered question is how in the world human H3N2 and avian H5N1 viruses somehow became co-mingled. Investigators are so far baffled as to how the company could have been so incredibly negligent as to have allowed human flu and bird flu to have gotten mixed together like that.
The reality is that an accidental release of a mixture of live H5N1 and H3N2 viruses to the public could have triggered a devastating pandemic.
How bad could things have gotten if this had gotten out into the public?
The Toronto Sun explains it this way:
While H5N1 doesn’t easily infect people, H3N2 viruses do. If someone exposed to a mixture of the two had been simultaneously infected with both strains, he or she could have served as an incubator for a hybrid virus able to transmit easily to and among people.
Some are even suggesting that Baxter may have had a profit motive in all of this. If bird flu did start spreading among humans, it would create an overnight demand for bird flu vaccines which Baxter makes. The profits that Baxter International would reap during such a panic would be enormous.
Meanwhile, there have been 4 more human deaths from the bird flu in Indonesia. Disturbing reports of bird flu activity have been popping up all over the world recently, and the reality is that if H5N1 does transition into a form that is easily transmissible from human to human then we will have a problem of unimaginable proportions on our hands.