Friday, April 10, 2009


Deerfield, IL-based Baxter International has confirmed that vaccine shipments sent to subcontractors in Czech Republic, Slovenia and Germany were contaminated with live H5N1 avian flu viruses. The contaminated product, which Baxter calls "experimental virus material," was a mix of H3N2 seasonal flu viruses and H5N1 viruses produced at the company's research facility in Orth-Donau. The problem was discovered when ferrets inoculated with the experimental mix died. Baxter was notified on February 6, but has kept quiet about the details surrounding the mix-up, the Canadian Press reports.


Reuters AlertNet - European lab accidents raise biosecurity concerns

19 Mar 2009 17:39:12 GMT
Source: Reuters
* Bird flu and Ebola virus accidents raise biosecurity fears
* European states urged to improve lab accident disclosure
* Northern Europe reports most lab-acquired infections

- Lab accidents involving bird flu and Ebola viruses have increased biosecurity fears in Europe, where public health experts say research on dangerous pathogens needs to be more strictly monitored. A scientist in Germany last week pricked herself with a needle that was believed to be contaminated with a strain of the Ebola haemorrhagic virus with a mortality rate of around 90 percent. She is still under observation in hospital.

That accident added to public health concerns following the recent disclosure that deadly H5N1 bird flu virus samples were mixed with seasonal flu samples at a Baxter International contracted laboratory in Austria. Health authorities and industry groups reviewing European lab safety standards concluded in a new report that scientists and managers needed to be better trained in ways to prevent, handle and report such incidents. While stressing that research on viruses and pathogens is important for vaccine, drug and diagnostic development, the group Biosafety Europe said "it also represents a risk to the population in case those organisms may spread in the environment due to a laboratory accident, poor laboratory practices or intentional removal and subsequent release (terrorist attack)." "Adequate technical and physical containment measures and best biosafety and biosecurity practices must be implemented in those facilities to prevent accidental or intentional release of dangerous pathogens," it said in the recommendations, published on Security experts say viruses and other biological agents could be used as weapons, as occurred in 2001 in the United States when envelopes containing anthrax were sent to media outlets and U.S. lawmakers, kiling five people. HUMAN ERROR Baxter spokesman Chris Bona said the Illinois-based company learned in February about the H5N1 contamination, which was due to "a combination of process, technical and human error." The flu virus samples were meant only for testing and not vaccine or product development, according to the spokesman, who said Baxter has "put corrective measures in place" after the accident but declined to give details "for proprietary reasons." All 37 people exposed to the mixture at subcontractor sites in Germany, the Czech Republic and Slovenia, and at AVIR Greenhills Biotechnology, an Austrian company that bought the samples, tested negative for H5N1 bird flu, Bona said. The World Health Organisation (WHO) fears that virus, which has killed 256 people since 2003, could trigger a deadly flu pandemic if it mutates and starts to spread more easily. Biosafety Europe's project coordinator Kathrin Summermatter said that better training and more collaboration on safety standards could help reduce pathogen risks in European labs. "We found that even though there are European guidelines concerning biosafety, the awareness, the implementation and the control was not the same in the different European countries," she told Reuters by email. The group's report, compiled before the recent bird flu and Ebola accidents, said that Northern European countries disclosed more laboratory-acquired infections than other parts of Europe, "which in part may reflect reporting differences." Summermatter said greater transparency about incidents that do occur was essential to help identify and reduce risks: "It is important to learn from the experience of other laboratories." (Editing by Mark Trevelyan)
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Repost: Why the markets MUST be closed on Good Friday

Good Friday Trading-Free Since 1907 Panic Exclusive

By Coincidence or Not, Good Friday Trading-Free Since '07 Panic

By Chris Dolmetsch

March 21 (Bloomberg) -- The New York Stock Exchange is closed today, as it has been every Good Friday for nearly a century and a half except for in 1898, 1906 and 1907.

That last one was in the same year as the infamous Panic of 1907, when the value of U.S. stocks plunged by more than a third. Hence, a legend that persists 101 years later: Traders get to stay home the Friday before Easter not just because it's a Christian holy day but because of its association with one of history's great bear markets.

Brooks P. Nelson, a second-generation professional investor, remembers his father telling him the story every year: ``He used to say, `It's closed on Good Friday because of the panic of aught-seven,''' Nelson, 53, said in a telephone interview. Rumor had it that in 1907, ``the good Irish-Catholic traders said, `We told you not to open on Good Friday.'''

Supposedly, the tale went, the market behaved so badly that the exchange vowed never to allow trading on Good Friday again. Circumstantial evidence aside, market historians and the NYSE itself say the story is without foundation.

``I have no evidence in the archives that I've seen or the notes of the details that would prove that theory,'' said Robert F. Bruner, co-author of ``The Panic of 1907,'' published last year, and dean of the University of Virginia's Darden Graduate School of Business Administration. ``The panic itself occurred in October 1907, although in March of 1907, there was a significant break in the market.''

A Good Good Friday

Jeffrey A. Hirsch, editor of ``Stock Trader's Almanac,'' said that downturn started March 13, when the Dow Jones Industrial Average tumbled 3.9 percent, and continued the next day, when it lost 8.3 percent. Good Friday in 1907 fell on March 29, when he said the Dow climbed 2.5 percent.

The bear market began after the market peaked in September 1906. By November 1907, the value of all listed U.S. shares had plunged 37 percent, and at least 25 banks and 17 trust companies collapsed.

Among them were New York's Knickerbocker Trust, where rumors of financial problems triggered a run on banks in the city and contributed to the crash, according to the NYSE's Web site. The crisis ultimately prompted the creation of the Federal Reserve system.

``Closing on Good Friday doesn't appear to coincide with any market panic or crash,'' said Ray Pellecchia, a spokesman for the Big Board. The exchange's records go back to 1864 and show trading only on those three Good Fridays in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, he said.

Only Non-Federal Holiday

The Friday before Easter is the only one of nine stock- market holidays that isn't also a federal holiday. Other U.S. stock, options and derivatives exchanges, including the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, are also shut today. The Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association recommends that bond markets close in Japan, the U.K. and the U.S.

The exchange has a rich Irish-Catholic heritage and was once steeped in religious observances, said Peter Kenny, a managing director of institutional sales at Knight Equity Markets in Jersey City, N.J., who worked at the NYSE for 28 years. That made trading on Good Friday out of the question, he said.

``It was never open to debate, never, ever,'' said Kenny, whose grandfather, legendary U.S. government bond trader Christopher Devine, built **Our Lady of Victory chapel near Wall Street for convenient confessions. ``People were expected to go to Our Lady of Victory on Wednesday and Thursday, all of Holy Week.''

`Insufficient Demand'

Bruner, the author, said there's a simple explanation for why markets shut down on Good Friday: ``The financial institutions close on holidays, frankly, out of the belief that there is insufficient demand, insufficient trading activity and insufficient business,'' he said. ``I doubt the theory that closing on Good Friday was related to the panic of 1907.''

Nelson, president of Nelson Roberts Investment Advisors in Palo Alto, California, said he has no idea whether there's truth to what he was told by his father, Philip, who worked in Manhattan's financial industry for almost 20 years before moving to the West Coast.

``It's one of those things,'' Nelson said. ``Wall Street lore.''

**Our Lady Of Victory - was a common, sometimes daily pit stop for yours truly. -st0ckman

Francis Cardinal Spellman founded Our Victory Church at Pine and William Streets in the financial district of Manhattan, in 1944. It is known as the War Memorial Church, and at the front door, there is a quotation from Cardinal Spellman:

“This Holy Shine is dedicated to Our Lady of Victory in Thanksgiving for Victory won by our Valiant dead,
our soldier’s blood, our Country’s tears, shed to defend men’s rights and win back men’s hearts to God”

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