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More Forgotten Vials of Deadly Diseases Discovered

Unknown Lamer posted about 3 months ago | from the keep-a-few-handy dept.

Medicine 55

schwit1 (797399) writes FDA officials now admit that when they discovered six undocumented vials of smallpox in a facility in Maryland they also found 327 additional vials that contained dengue, influenza, and rickettsia. "FDA scientists said they have not yet confirmed whether the newly disclosed vials actually contained the pathogens listed on their labels. The agency is conducting a nationwide search of all cold storage units for any other missing samples. Investigators destroyed 32 vials containing tissue samples and a non-contagious virus related to smallpox. Several unlabeled vials were sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for testing and the remaining 279 samples were shipped to the Department of Homeland Security for safekeeping." The FDA's deputy director is quoted with what might be the understatement of the year. "The reasons why these samples went unnoticed for this long is something we're actively trying to understand."

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Homeland Security (3, Insightful)

VorpalRodent (964940) | about 3 months ago | (#47477625)

So, the department that pretends to keep me safe on airplanes is now also the one that pretends to keep me safe from deadly airborne pathogens?

Why is the CDC not holding on to these for safekeeping? Their obvious failure here notwithstanding, I'd think that this is more their bailiwick than DHS's.

Re:Homeland Security (1)

VorpalRodent (964940) | about 3 months ago | (#47477665)

I'm just going to take my foot out of my mouth before someone else beats me to it. Clearly the wrong agency. I'll go back to lurking in the corner.

Re:Homeland Security (1)

Joe Gillian (3683399) | about 3 months ago | (#47477791)

My guess is that it's probably a regulation of some sort. DHS will probably give the samples to the CDC, but I bet there's a regulation saying that the FDA can't give it directly to the CDC.

Re:Homeland Security (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47477909)

Yeah, because it's real fucking safe with the department of sticky fingered transportation molestation agents.

Fucking hell, we ought to just give up now. We're so unbelievably fucked.

Re:Homeland Security (0)

sillybilly (668960) | about 3 months ago | (#47479031)

Give up? Get used to it. The future is organic, the voices tell me, not silicon. There is so much friggin silicon around that you'd wonder if intelligent design put it there to be turned into one supermassive superparallel 25 nm feature size gigantio chip. I mean all the silicon as far as the eye can see, all the silicon on Earth, all the silicon on the Moon, Mars, Venus, Mercury, all the asteroids, converted into a bigger and bigger silicon chip. That's what you'd call the megabrain. However the future is not silicon based life, for one of two reasons: 1. organic life will be smart enough not to fuck with it. 2. organic life will be dumb enough not to be able to create it. Only in the present do we have these smart enough naive idiots who can make a chip, yet they don't recognize the dangers of artificial intelligence, and they think it's a great idea, artificial intelligence can help us think, artificial intelligent weapons can win wars, more power more power, til you get the latest and greatest wonder of technology: an artificial intelligent robot weapon that eats humans for breakfast, or in fact, all organic life for breakfast. Aren''t the wonders of technology amazing?

The future is organic life, not silicon life, at least in the solar system, and probably in 99.99% of galaxies out there (there may be some galaxies where silicon based life was created by organic life and then it survives on its own.) But this organic future is nowhere near as fun as things are today. Expect never before seen diseases, Predators you've never met, smarter than you, eating you. I mean what do you expect in another 3 billion years? It took about that long to go from a single celled bacterium to a tiger, polar bear and an ape (like humans are apes), and all these lifeforms do one thing: they eat each other, and kill each other. What do you think silicon based lifeforms would do? Not consume the carbon and what not in you to build their own structure (be it carbon for plastic parts or even additive for metallurgical carbides like tungsten carbide/cobalt matrix tools), and convert all matter they can find into enlarging themselves? So anyway, saying we're fucked, oh no, get used to it, it's gonna be we're fucked squared, and everyone will be taking it as a matter of fact, and life will still go on. With half your face chewed off by some new parasite. With one of your arm and your little sister lost to some predator that has higher tech weapons than you, but it's not stupid to use nukes and pollute his environment with it, nor big bombs, but smart weapons that disable you, maybe cook you or fry you just right, ready to eat. Kind of like in the movie Predator. That kind of stuff. In another 3 billion years. For skull collectin, if nothing else, sense of art, sense of beauty. Your skull gonna be on display at some Predator's home entrance like some hunters have stuffed animals and dear skulls on display in their homes. Cuz these face chewing gangrene diseases are nothing compared to smarter predators than you, organized, multicellular, thinking diseases out to get you, so to speak, called predators.

Re:Homeland Security (2)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 3 months ago | (#47477765)

I think you meant to say:

"the remaining 279 samples were shipped to the Department of Homeland Security for safekeeping"

What could possibly go wrong?

Re:Homeland Security (1)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | about 3 months ago | (#47477841)

Hey, kudos to whomever diverted them from Ft. Detrick to the NIH, back in the day. Anonymous, forgotten hero.

Re:Homeland Security (2)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about 3 months ago | (#47478039)

Hey, kudos to whomever diverted them from Ft. Detrick to the NIH, back in the day. Anonymous, forgotten hero.

What I am wondering is: why do they even care whether the pathogens in the vials are actually what is on the labels?

They're trying to verify one endangerment of pubic health by further endangering public health.

I mean, they're not even saving money. Incinerate the lot, using the standard procedures for doing so, and have done with it.

Re:Homeland Security (1)

myrdos2 (989497) | about 3 months ago | (#47478335)

They probably want to know if there was actually a flaw in their handling procedures, and if it has since been corrected.

Re:Homeland Security (2)

Chris Mattern (191822) | about 3 months ago | (#47482073)

What I am wondering is: why do they even care whether the pathogens in the vials are actually what is on the labels?

They care because anybody can write a label saying "smallpox virus" and stick it on a vial. But if the vial actually *does* contain smallpox virus, then there were flawed procedures that let that virus be sent out to East Bumfuck with no records kept. And those flawed procedures might still be in place, in which case it is urgent that they get fixed.

Re:Homeland Security (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about 3 months ago | (#47484615)

They care because anybody can write a label saying "smallpox virus" and stick it on a vial. But if the vial actually *does* contain smallpox virus, then there were flawed procedures that let that virus be sent out to East Bumfuck with no records kept. And those flawed procedures might still be in place, in which case it is urgent that they get fixed.

That does make sense. But the interesting thing is, we already know there are flawed procedures in their improved procedures (reference the containment failures in recent years), so I would argue that they are actually increasing public risks by doing it this way.

I could be wrong. Maybe there are still really big, undiscovered holes in their procedures that need to be fixed. But there are already pretty big known holes.

They can share with FEMA (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47478245)

Next major emergency you may want to think twice about accepting "emergency blankets".

Re:Homeland Security (1)

clovis (4684) | about 3 months ago | (#47478811)

So, the department that pretends to keep me safe on airplanes is now also the one that pretends to keep me safe from deadly airborne pathogens?

Why is the CDC not holding on to these for safekeeping? Their obvious failure here notwithstanding, I'd think that this is more their bailiwick than DHS's.

The samples are begin sent to Fort Detrick's The National Biodefense Analysis and Countermeasures Center, so it kinda makes sense.

Re:Homeland Security (1)

AHuxley (892839) | about 3 months ago | (#47479333)

The DHS got parts of what was the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, National Biological Warfare Defense Analysis Center, Plum Island Animal Disease Center, parts of the HHS (Strategic National Stockpile National Disaster Medical System later returned?) and has some form of 'emergency prevention' or "response, recovery, and mitigation" powers.
Add in ideas like the National Biosurveillance Integration Center (NBIC) for rapid identification, characterisation, localisation, and tracking via integrated biosurveillance.
So a lot of top, well funded science in gov has been recreated, duplicated or folded in to a massive new well funded government, private, non-governmental networks.
It can keep the media away. Track the media in real time and ensure that any details are on message. It keeps the skilled staff on message about past events, pesky old international obligations and makes the wider public feel happy with displays of security theatre.

Re:Homeland Security (1)

jittles (1613415) | about 3 months ago | (#47481721)

So, the department that pretends to keep me safe on airplanes is now also the one that pretends to keep me safe from deadly airborne pathogens?

Why is the CDC not holding on to these for safekeeping? Their obvious failure here notwithstanding, I'd think that this is more their bailiwick than DHS's.

Maybe I need to wear a little less tinfoil but how are they going to plan their next airport terrorist attack if they don't have some biological weapons to use? ;)

Did they check under the couch cushions? (4, Funny)

gurps_npc (621217) | about 3 months ago | (#47477653)

Because that's where half the small things I lose are.

Keys, TV remote control, coins, vials of Ebola,

Re:Did they check under the couch cushions? (5, Funny)

dissy (172727) | about 3 months ago | (#47478221)

*cough* Well the bad news is I didn't find any vials of ebola in there *coughwheeze* just these empty vials ready for filling.

The good news *coughhack* can I keep this $0.78 in change? I'm saving up *sneezecolorscolors* for a flu shot - not feeling so well suddenly *sneezecoughsplatter* for some unknown reason...

It is a miracle... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47477667)

that we have lasted this long with this much man-made and man-sustained incompetence around every corner and hiding in the back of so many closets.

Eventually... (2)

twistedcubic (577194) | about 3 months ago | (#47477699)

...they will discover Scully's tissue samples in that hidden file cabinet.

Re:Eventually... (1)

RabidReindeer (2625839) | about 3 months ago | (#47477711)

...they will discover Scully's tissue samples in that hidden file cabinet.

Yard Sale!

Smartphones (1)

TechyImmigrant (175943) | about 3 months ago | (#47477709)

Does no one in the federal government have a smartphone? Why are there no pictures of the vials being pulled from dusty refrigerators?

Re:Smartphones (5, Funny)

ArcadeMan (2766669) | about 3 months ago | (#47477727)

If you want to see a container with a pathogen in it, I could check my own fridge. There's something labeled "casserole 2003" but that can't possibly be right.

Re:Smartphones (1)

pslytely psycho (1699190) | about 3 months ago | (#47478229)

My wife is notorious for conducting 'science experiments.'
I wonder if anyone in her family tree was named Pasteur?

Re:Smartphones (4, Funny)

aXis100 (690904) | about 3 months ago | (#47479121)

I had a mate who kept a container of crushed pineapples in his fridge for about 7 years. We called it Alfred.

It grew mould and went though all of the colours of the rainbow, in a magical cyclic dance of self sustainability. Then his sister came over one day and threw it out. :(

Re:Smartphones (1)

ArcadeMan (2766669) | about 3 months ago | (#47479285)

Funniest Story of the Week Award.

Re:Smartphones (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47477733)

Some people are interested in doing their job correctly, rather than uploading photos of themselves juggling smallpox vials to Facebook. I know it's hard to believe that such people might be working for the federal government, but it can still happen.

Might want to check between the couch cushions too (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47477713)

Just to be safe and all that.

Why Homeland Security getting 279 samples? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47477751)

Why is homeland security getting shipped 279 samples and not the CDC to destroy them?

does it surprise you? (4, Insightful)

ganjadude (952775) | about 3 months ago | (#47477761)

it seems the federal governments MO these days.
first you lie "it was a movie!!!"
when you get caught, you only admit the small details of what you got caught with "well, it was only a rogue agent, it was not sent down from above"
then you drag it out as long as you can "we are having internal investigations to ensure this isolated incident does not ever happen again"
Then you get caught in more than you initially got caught in "well, WHAT DIFFERENCE DOES IT MAKE!!!!"
then you make up more lies to cover up the lies that you got caught in to begin with (all while blaming the other political party for witch hunts, eventhough they have been right)

This seems to be the case for the IRS, the DOJ, the FBI, the NSA, the white house etc. I would be more shocked if they told us no, that really was just a single vial, and it be truthful

Re:does it surprise you? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47477867)

No surprise here, the incompetent dolts staffing the current regime mirror Soviet apparatchiki of the 1980s. I fear the chance of a peaceful regime dissolution here is way less than over there, however.

Re:does it surprise you? (1)

AHuxley (892839) | about 3 months ago | (#47479405)

We are in the days of "well, WHAT DIFFERENCE DOES IT MAKE!!!!"
The days of the science/space gap in the 1950's allowed a lot of small regional labs and their skilled staff to get fancy grants and expand.
You also saw the need for inspected, what was biosafety level 4 been well funded and in remote locations.
Over time great advances, endless international recognition flowed for a few top sites and their staff.
Other new and old institutions, states became more enraged as they where seen as falling behind due to location and only been allowed to run lesser biosafety level labs.
The solution was to allow more staff and more grants to work with less stringent biosafety. A larger pool of national skills, more funding, more grants, great peer review and paying students. Don't worry about doors, seals, filters, old stock its all very productive.

Hopefully (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47477781)

Hopefully they don't find any vials of Captain Trips.

Thanks Obama! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47477847)

No seriously... thanks!!! Thanks for being the most negligent half-witted president we've ever had. Makes GW look like a genius.

Re:Thanks Obama! (-1, Flamebait)

ganjadude (952775) | about 3 months ago | (#47477869)

he really does. I hated bush (look at my posts at the time of his presidency) but after 6 years of this obamnation, i almost feel sorry for him.

missmeyet.jpg makes so much sense

Re:Thanks Obama! (2)

Aryden (1872756) | about 3 months ago | (#47477943)

What the flying fuck does the Obama administration have to with this? It seems, the administration is now taking the CORRECT action about something that was actually done before he ever showed up on the political scene...

Re:Thanks Obama! (2)

ganjadude (952775) | about 3 months ago | (#47478181)

what does obama have to do with this particular instance? nothing (that we know of yet) however "the buck stops uhhh with me"~ obama words, not mine

the problem is that his people (his federal agencies) refuse to be honest about anything. granted we dont know enough about this issue yet to place blame, and it is not something that was his fault as they have been there before he was elected. but the point remains every other day there is some issue at the federal level, and there is a subset of voters who want to give the federal government even more power

Re:Thanks Obama! (1)

GiganticLyingMouth (1691940) | about 3 months ago | (#47478179)

These vials are from over 50 years ago. Your comment would have made more sense if meant facetiously. From TFA:

FDA officials estimate the collection was assembled between 1946 and 1964 by government scientists.

Tell me again what role Obama had in this?

Re:Thanks Obama! (3, Funny)

ganjadude (952775) | about 3 months ago | (#47478217)

personally with the fuckup? nothing, but his agencies unwillingness to come forward with information when requested (or when it should be common sense to release information) is a joke. I wont blame obama for something that happened before he was born, but how it is handled when it comes to light is his problem as this is a federal agency.

Re:Thanks Obama! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47478743)

personally with the fuckup? nothing, but his agencies unwillingness to come forward with information when requested (or when it should be common sense to release information) is a joke. I wont blame obama for something that happened before he was born, but how it is handled when it comes to light is his problem as this is a federal agency.

I'm confused. The CDC finds a screwup, instantly reports it, and your complaint is they don't release information?

Re:Thanks Obama! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47482425)

Should be thanking Truman here, not Obama.

Re:Thanks Obama! (1)

MrTester (860336) | about 3 months ago | (#47478239)

What the hell? These have been laying around unnoticed since the 1970s when another agency took over the building, but somehow all the blame falls on Obama...
If thats the sort of thing you are using to call Obama a half-witted president, YOU make GW look like a genius.

samples ... shipped to ... Homeland Security (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47477871)

Any responsible person would have destroyed them immediately where they are. I'm sure those labs have the facilities to do that safely. They can be lost in shipment or broken and released.

They are from 50+ years ago! (1)

Zeorge (1954266) | about 3 months ago | (#47477883)

Wow, they really need to clean up their storage lockers more often. That being said, I don't know how they lost track of them unless it was a specific person doing research at both places and they moved their materials. I wouldn't be surprised if there are/were reams of related research materials.

Re:They are from 50+ years ago! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47478061)

From what I can gather, you're mostly correct. The lab was given to the FDA from the NIH. My guess is, somewhere in the process, the documentation of "hey, there's dangerous shit in here" didn't make it to the FDA properly.

In other news (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47477919)

Obama found his head up his ass while Eric Holder sucked his dick...

wtf (1)

Aryden (1872756) | about 3 months ago | (#47477923)

So glad I no longer work in that office.

Re:wtf (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47478063)

Did you leave them a little souvenir when they fired you?

Dont surprise me (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47477955)

When I worked in the nuclear industry we asked for hazard pay before cleaning out old lockers in case it contained the missing material that wasn't sent to Israel.

Unsolved Anthrax Case? (3, Interesting)

karstdiver (541054) | about 3 months ago | (#47478155)

A quick search for "unsolved anthrax cases" turned up a WSJ article that mentions a facility in MD. I wonder if any connection between those cases and these "missing" vials?

The reasons why these samples went unnoticed (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47478213)

"The reasons why these samples went unnoticed for this long is something we're actively trying to understand." Answer: The person looking after them wasn't moslem.

I live in Atlanta and... (2)

Kevin Fishburne (1296859) | about 3 months ago | (#47478387)

Just about everything works like this, as in, fails to work. The Postal Service employee who delivers my mail often wears pajamas and nearly ran me off the road a couple of weeks ago with my two year old in the car. Hell, the Atlanta Braves are moving out of the city in a few years. Perhaps it's no coincidence that The Walking Dead is filmed in Georgia. All those zombie movies may have been more realistic than we imagined.

Good (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47478469)

It's nice to know my taxes are well spent on competent people that are productive and efficient.

The reasons why these samples went unnoticed... (1)

rusty0101 (565565) | about 3 months ago | (#47478949)

...for so long.

I'm going with some agency who considered obscurity and secrecy to be effective means of insuring safety neglected to pass on the details of what they were securing to the appropriate agencies that were taking over the care and handling of these vials. That and the agency taking over the care and handling never bothered to review what information was being handed over, and possibly discarded and destroyed the records when they met the agencies 'retain until' date for some category that those records were filed under.

Reality vs Fiction (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47480739)

So many thrillers about deadly viruses show complex plots, with various twists and turns, murder, bribery, blackmail to get a few vials of those deadly little bugs, when in reality it's so simple ...

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