Video: Say, has anyone seen that deadly virus we left laying around?

posted at 12:01 pm on March 26, 2013 by Ed Morrissey

This story will probably remind people of the film Outbreak, especially with its connection to a virus that produces a deadly hemorrhagic fever. I’m reminded more of the epic Stephen King novel The Stand, with its first third dedicated to the eradication of 99% of the human race thanks to a government-lab fumbling of a superflu virus. Let’s hope that this story ends better than either of those two fictional cautionary tales:

The Galveston National Laboratory lost one of five vials containing a deadly Venezuelan virus, according to the University of Texas Medical Branch, which owns the $174 million facility designed with the strictest security measures to hold the deadliest viruses in the country.

Like Ebola, the missing Guanarito virus causes hemorrhagic fever, an illness named for “bleeding under the skin, in internal organs or from body orifices like the mouth, eyes, or ears,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“This is clearly an incident that is very discomforting and embarrassing to the University of Texas Medical Center and their national biosecurity lab that they have there,” said Dr. William Schaffner, chairman of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tenn. “You can be sure there are a lot of sweating people down the chain at that institution.”

Oddly, the statistics in this report sound better than one might expect, given the scope of the programs involved. Across more than 1400 laboratories operating in Level 3 or Level 4 environments, only 11 people inside the labs got sick all of last year, and only one vial lost previous to this. Given the number of transactions that must take place with this many facilities and personnel, that sounds like a pretty tight operation, at least on a statistical basis. People will make mistakes, which is why these kind of critical and dangerous operations usually have several levels of redundancy.

Usually, anyway. Locking the doors might be a pretty good first level, though:

Oh, by the way, UTMB president David Callender says that this wasn’t a security breach. That surely will make us all feel better.

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Spring break, Galveston, those silly college kids. It ended up in a punchbowl down on the seawall. With enough other alcohol to kill any virus.

cozmo on March 26, 2013 at 12:06 PM

How do we know it is lost and wasn’t stolen?

melle1228 on March 26, 2013 at 12:06 PM

12 Monkeys. It’s our future.

slickwillie2001 on March 26, 2013 at 12:10 PM

Obviously people who handle deadly assault viruses that could kill millions of people should have to pay a $10 fee for a background check before they get to handle the viruses, and only be allowed to handle o more than 7 viruses at a time….

dentarthurdent on March 26, 2013 at 12:11 PM

Another bad video link – causing lockup on my computer.

dentarthurdent on March 26, 2013 at 12:12 PM

It’s the Rage Virus, but it got loose a long time ago and infected almost everyone at the OWS camps.

Bishop on March 26, 2013 at 12:14 PM

Like Ebola, the missing Guanarito virus causes hemorrhagic fever, an illness named for “bleeding under the skin, in internal organs or from body orifices like the mouth, eyes, or ears,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Much like the extras on The Walking Dead, so when the virus spreads nobody will really notice…”Oh look, there’s a group of people acting the zombies on the walking dead…lets’ go take some photos!”

BobMbx on March 26, 2013 at 12:14 PM

Oh, by the way, UTMB president David Callender says that this wasn’t a security breach. That surely will make us all feel better.

So, maybe an insider stole it?

Bitter Clinger on March 26, 2013 at 12:15 PM

“This marks the first time that any vial containing a select agent has been unaccounted for at UTMB, officials said.

“We don’t think anything that happened this past week endangers the community,” Weaver said. “We think this is an error that any one facility is inevitable and we are going to improve to prevent this in the future.”

Officials suspect that the virus was likely destroyed during the normal laboratory decontamination and cleaning process, but the investigation is ongoing…

Weaver said those trusted to use the laboratory go through a rigorous security screening and training program. He said the lab is reviewing the procedures for maintaining inventory records and hope to implement a new system to help eliminate human error from the process, which would use electronically encoded system to automatically check inventory based on the vials’ labels.

Guanarito is native only to Venezuela and can cause hemorrhagic fever. The virus is not known to be transmitted person-to-person and poses no public health risk, according to officials. In the limited area of Venezuela where the virus is found, it is transmitted only by rodents native to the area and is not believe to be capable of surviving naturally in rodents in the United States…”

http://www.chron.com/news/houston-texas/houston/article/Missing-virus-vial-raises-concerns-at-UTMB-4380346.php

workingclass artist on March 26, 2013 at 12:19 PM

I’ve been wondering a lot lately how we’ve made it this far.

rrpjr on March 26, 2013 at 12:19 PM

So WHO is getting fired?

GarandFan on March 26, 2013 at 12:20 PM

When did Hot Air start embedding auto-play with ads before the bottom news link? More importantly, how can I disable it? When I tyell it to stop runninbg scripts I get an “Access Denied” error from a place called cdnapi.kaltura.com.

Elric on March 26, 2013 at 12:22 PM

Elric on March 26, 2013 at 12:22 PM

https://www.abine.com/

Safe, easy, free, and scads of people here use it. Stops the crap instantly.

Bishop on March 26, 2013 at 12:24 PM

I’ve been wondering a lot lately how we’ve made it this far.

One might say divine guidance and intervention, luck, destiny.

I’d say all of the above already have or will run out soon, by our own acts of choosing poorly, generally as a nation.

All too soon.

hawkeye54 on March 26, 2013 at 12:26 PM

In the limited area of Venezuela where the virus is found, it is transmitted only by rodents native to the area and is not believe to be capable of surviving naturally in rodents in the United States…”

“Even though we’ve had this virus for a number of years, we don’t know anything about it, so our story is that ‘its not a big deal’.

BobMbx on March 26, 2013 at 12:27 PM

Already exists out in the wild in Argentina, affects only rodents. I’m not going to lose sleep unless they were genetically engineering it to pass on to humans or something, in which case I don’t think we would know the missing vial ever existed.

WitchDoctor on March 26, 2013 at 12:28 PM

So WHO is getting fired?

Some poor chump at the bottom of the employment chain. Certainly no one who actually has any real management and security responsibility. The buck always seems to stop at mid-management, or lower, levels.

hawkeye54 on March 26, 2013 at 12:29 PM

“Even though we’ve had this virus for a number of years, we don’t know anything about it, so our story is that ‘its not a big deal’.

Gee. wouldn’t it be terrific to have this virus out and spreading about for some real life scientific study on its effects.

hawkeye54 on March 26, 2013 at 12:31 PM

It shows up in Hollywood as the new and improved botox+

Limerick on March 26, 2013 at 12:32 PM

Bishop on March 26, 2013 at 12:24 PM

Thanks.

rrpjr on March 26, 2013 at 12:35 PM

Oh, by the way, UTMB president David Callender says that this wasn’t a security breach.

And Janet Napolitano said the system worked.

Who are you going to believe: Me, or your lying eyes?

Socratease on March 26, 2013 at 12:43 PM

Put it back, Twerp.

katy the mean old lady on March 26, 2013 at 12:44 PM

In the limited area of Venezuela where the virus is found, it is transmitted only by rodents native to the area and is not believe to be capable of surviving naturally in rodents in the United States…”

“Even though we’ve had this virus for a number of years, we don’t know anything about it, so our story is that ‘its not a big deal’.

BobMbx on March 26, 2013 at 12:27 PM

Rats have NIMBY, who knew?

slickwillie2001 on March 26, 2013 at 12:46 PM

“This is clearly an incident that is very discomforting and embarrassing to the University of Texas Medical Center and their national biosecurity lab that they have there,” said Dr. William Schaffner

Yeah, losing a deadly virus vial is kinda uncomfortable when you’ve got biosecurity in the name of your facility.

UTMB president David Callender says that this wasn’t a security breach.

That suggests lax controls or staff incompetence. Who at UTMB got fired?

I suspect in the end this will be akin to the accountability of the Bradley Manning treason. A PFC with noted issues is able to access and steal thousands of sensitive documents and not one individual in the rat’s chain-of-command gets so much as a letter or reprimand for allowing it to happen.

In this case, nobody but nobody gets held to account except perhaps some low-level lab worker. Not the supervisor who should have had direct oversight, not the manager who oversaw the research, not the director of the lab.

Happy Nomad on March 26, 2013 at 12:46 PM

katy the mean old lady on March 26, 2013 at 12:44 PM

I thought that, at first.

But she ain’t been here long enough to figure out Galveston.

cozmo on March 26, 2013 at 12:47 PM

Baby can you dig your man?

rhombus on March 26, 2013 at 12:47 PM

I thought that, at first.

But she ain’t been here long enough to figure out Galveston.

cozmo on March 26, 2013 at 12:47 PM

I dunno. She was only there a week when Anninacan went missing and chupacabras started popping up. I’m concerned.

katy the mean old lady on March 26, 2013 at 12:49 PM

katy the mean old lady on March 26, 2013 at 12:49 PM

Hmmmm…
I may have to reconsider. That bunny suit makes for good camouflage. And it is that time of year…

cozmo on March 26, 2013 at 12:54 PM

In the limited area of Venezuela where the virus is found

So, how long has it been missing, really? And, are we sure Chavez died of cancer?

GWB on March 26, 2013 at 1:10 PM

GWB on March 26, 2013 at 1:10 PM

Oh geeze, you just gave the Venezuelan news their lead for the rest of the year.

cozmo on March 26, 2013 at 1:24 PM

Baby can you dig your man?

rhombus on March 26, 2013 at 12:47 PM

Not if it’s Randal Flagg.

Oldnuke on March 26, 2013 at 1:40 PM

“I just had it right here…”

Ward Cleaver on March 26, 2013 at 1:59 PM

Damn … which pants pocket did I leave that in . . . . . . . . . .
HONEY ! ! … do you remember which suit I wore, yesterday?

Hmmmmm ….. maybe it fell out of my pocket in the car … (goes out to check car)
.
(on the phone) Hi, Mike? ….. yeah, it’s me ….. no, HEY listen … you don’t by any chance have that vial of the “Venezuelan flu”, do you? … (silence, then panic on the other end of the phone) ….. no, NO, NO, take it easy Mike … I’m sure it didn’t get stolen . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . I just don’t know what did happen to it . . . . . .

listens2glenn on March 26, 2013 at 2:17 PM

How do we know it is lost and wasn’t stolen?

melle1228 on March 26, 2013 at 12:06 PM

.
‘Cause they told us ! … Just how cynical are you ?

(yeah, me too)

listens2glenn on March 26, 2013 at 2:22 PM

The origins of the Zombie Apocalypse are found.

portlandon on March 26, 2013 at 2:25 PM

When did Hot Air start embedding auto-play with ads before the bottom news link? More importantly, how can I disable it? When I tyell it to stop runninbg scripts I get an “Access Denied” error from a place called cdnapi.kaltura.com.

Elric on March 26, 2013 at 12:22 PM

Consider me another person heartily ANNOYED by these new embedded autoplay video ads. Frankly, I consider them an insult to your readers. I understand the need for advertising dollars, but this is an invasion of my work and home space.

quikstrike98 on March 26, 2013 at 2:26 PM

Consider me another person heartily ANNOYED by these new embedded autoplay video ads.
quikstrike98 on March 26, 2013 at 2:26 PM

Ditto!
How can I pretend to be working when these stupid ads start blaring away!

Dexter_Alarius on March 26, 2013 at 2:44 PM

It’s always in the last place you look.

Ditto w/autoplay annoyance.

gbear on March 26, 2013 at 4:48 PM

Lots of sites force a money making ad attempt on my machine and I simply dont go to those sites or switch off to something else. Its ridiculous. Whats next, billboards that focus audio in your car against you will?

johnnyU on March 26, 2013 at 6:41 PM

I was in Galveston two weeks ago… hrmm..

/cough

ShadowsPawn on March 26, 2013 at 9:55 PM