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Old 01-15-2003, 02:22 PM   #1
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Missing Vials of Bubonic Plague

How do people "lose" stuff like this?

http://www.cnn.com/2003/US/Southwest...issing.plague/

LUBBOCK, Texas (CNN) -- Federal officials are looking for at least 30 vials that may contain the plague and are missing from Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center.

The FBI confirmed that some vials are missing, but a source said there is no clear proof that they contained bacteria that could cause bubonic or pneumonic plague. About 14 percent of plague cases in the United States are fatal.

Officials don't believe "what is in those vials can be used as a weapon," CNN's Kelli Arena reported.

Lubbock City Council member Frank Morrison said it is premature to say the items were stolen. The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal's Web site reports that a "theft" was reported to Texas Tech police.

"It's a major situation," Morrison said in a television interview, but he urged citizens not to let themselves be "terrorized" by this.

The FBI said that approximately 30 vials are missing.

President Bush received a briefing about the case on Wednesday, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said.

"I have been briefed by emergency operations center," Morrison said. "There have been a number of vials -- 35 is a generally accepted number. They are missing from the health science center. I believe it is inappropriate to characterize them as stolen vials."

He said the city was notified in the past day or so.

"We're really ramping up a medical response, getting them ready," said Chris Kozlow, of Innovative Emergency Management, a private risk management firm. "That's what would be going on right now."

The sources said the culture was not in all the vials, but may have been in some of them. They said the FBI is "aggressively looking" for the vials.

"The FBI is in fact investigating this," a bureau spokesman in Washington said. The FBI is working with local and state police officials and university personnel to determine what happened.

CNN Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen said that bacteria and viruses, such as the plague are widely available to researchers at universities across the United States.

She said that researchers often mail samples to each other and even sent them to colleagues in Iraq before restrictions were imposed.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

The plague is an infectious disease of animals and humans caused by a bacterium named Yersinia pestis.

Bubonic plague is a bacterial disease in rodents transmitted to humans through the bites of infected fleas.

The symptoms are swollen, tender lymph nodes, fever, and extreme exhaustion. Ten to 20 people a year are infected in rural areas of the western United States, while globally there are 1,000 to 3,000 cases a year.

It can be treated with antibiotics, but if it isn't treated promptly, it can cause death.

Millions of Europeans died from bubonic plague in the Middle Ages, when flea-infested rats inhabited homes and workplaces.

Pneumonic plague, a more serious form of the disease, occurs when plague bacteria are inhaled after direct contact with infected animals, including rodents, wildlife and pets.
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Old 01-15-2003, 02:28 PM   #2
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i hate it when i misplace my bubonic plague.



actually i'm watching this on cnn. it doesn't sound like it's exactly a catastrophic situation. the news woman just said that in the most catastrophic situation - if a city of 5 million people were attacked with the plague, 150,000 would be infected, and around 36,000 could die of it. still not good but hopefully the press doesn't turn it into the anthrax debacle again.
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Old 01-15-2003, 02:45 PM   #3
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Rest assured, they will.
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Old 01-15-2003, 02:52 PM   #4
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they recovered the vials. someone "moved" them.

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Old 01-15-2003, 02:56 PM   #5
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I know! I just saw!
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Old 01-15-2003, 02:59 PM   #6
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I was going to say this is probably nothing. That we live in an age where things like this are hyped.

I think vials are misplaced or lost all the time. (not a good thing)
It is just such a ratings booster, now.
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Old 01-15-2003, 08:02 PM   #7
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yeah, it's only a few hours away from me!!!
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Old 01-16-2003, 07:07 PM   #8
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there is something wrong with this story

Quote:
Professor Admits Lying About Plague Vials


By Betsy Blaney
Associated Press Writer
Thursday, January 16, 2003; 5:40 PM

LUBBOCK, Texas A university professor at the center of a scare over missing plague bacteria told the FBI he lied when he said 30 vials of the deadly bacteria had disappeared because he had accidentally destroyed them, according to court documents.

Dr. Thomas C. Butler was arrested Wednesday on a complaint of giving false information to the FBI about the vials. He was scheduled to appear in court Thursday afternoon.

The FBI said in documents filed in support of its criminal complaint that Butler gave agents a handwritten note in which he admitted lying to his supervisor about the vials.

"I made a misjudgment by not telling (the supervisor) that the plague bacteria had been accidentally destroyed earlier rather than erronneously first found missing," Butler wrote, according to the FBI.

In the note, Butler said he knew the bacteria had been destroyed and was not a threat to public health, and he didn't realize his story would trigger "such an extensive investigation."

When news spread about the missing vials, the anxiety was palpable. Homeland Security chief Tom Ridge contacted the mayor, a terrorism alert was triggered and dozens of investigators from the FBI and other agencies converged on Texas Tech University.

According to U.S. Attorney Dick Baker, Butler said Tuesday that vials containing bacteria obtained from tissue samples from East Africa were missing when "truth in fact, as he well knew, he had destroyed them prior to that."

"We have accounted for all those missing vials and we have determined that there is no danger to public safety whatsoever," Lubbock FBI Lupe Gonzalez said Wednesday.

Authorities have declined to elaborate on what happened to the vials or say why or how Butler may have destroyed the bacteria.

The samples, among 180 the school was using for research on the treatment of plague, were reported missing to campus police Tuesday night. Butler was the only person with authorized access to the bacteria, which is classified as a select agent that has to be registered with the International Biohazards Committee and with the federal government.

University spokeswoman Cindy Rugeley said Butler, the project's principal investigator, made the report.

Butler is chief of the infectious diseases division of the department of internal medicine at Texas Tech's medical school. The university said he has been involved in plague research for more than 25 years and is internationally recognized in the field. He has been at Texas Tech since 1987.

Dr. Richard Homan, Texas Tech School of Medicine dean, said the bacteria form of plague being used for research "was not weaponized in any way."

Baker said FBI agents interviewed Butler on Tuesday. He said the complaint noted the false statement resulted in a huge investigation involving about 60 state, local and federal agents.

The public did not learn of the report of missing vials until early Wednesday. But hospitals and medical personnel were notified Tuesday, part of the city's post-Sept. 11 emergency plan.

Samples were kept in a locked area of Butler's lab, which is not in a high-traffic area. Butler kept logs on batches of samples, and one batch was reported missing, according to the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal.

The secure area does not have a surveillance camera but access is controlled, officials said.

"I don't know the precise number (of keys), but it's limited," said Texas Tech Chancellor David Smith. "Policy (for federal grants) was not violated. This is one where we're looking at the human element."

Plague along with anthrax, smallpox and a few other deadly agents is on a watch list distributed by the government, which wants to make sure doctors and hospitals recognize a biological attack quickly.

Health officials say 10 to 20 people in the United States contract plague each year, usually through infected fleas or rodents. The plague can be treated with antibiotics, but about one in seven U.S. cases is fatal.
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Old 01-16-2003, 07:43 PM   #9
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Old 01-17-2003, 12:41 AM   #10
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Damn, this is insanity!!!
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