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Learning English - Words in the News
13 April, 2005 - Published 11:34 GMT
Labs told to destroy deadly virus

The World Health Organisation has appealed to nearly four thousand medical laboratories asking them to destroy samples of a potentially lethal influenza virus that was unintendedly included in routine testing kits. The virus is a strain of flu that killed up to four million people globally in 1957 but disappeared entirely by 1968. This report from Yousef Anani:

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The strain of flu is known as H2N2 and if caught by one person, could spread very easily to cause a global pandemic, as no-one born after 1968 would have the antibodies. Samples of the strain were sent to the laboratories as part of a routine test to check their capabilities of accurately detecting different viruses.

The organisation responsible for sending out the samples, the College of American Pathologists, didn't break any rules because the deadly virus was classified as "Biological Safety Level 2", meaning that it wasn't particularly dangerous. The US government agency responsible for classifying viruses, the Centre for Disease Control, says it was in the process of deciding whether to change the strain's classification when it was informed that it had been widely circulated.

The World Health Organisation says there is no guarantee that every sample of the virus can be traced and destroyed because some of the laboratories may have sent derivatives of the sample elsewhere. But it says that the fact there have been no reports so far of anyone handling the virus becoming ill is reassuring and that the risk of a pandemic is very low. The WHO says safety procedures will have to be revised.

Yousef Anani, BBC

Listen to the words

expand to cover a larger area

a global pandemic
a worldwide outbreak of the disease

blood proteins the body uses to fight a disease

in the process of
in the middle of doing something

assigning to a class or category

widely circulated
sent to many laboratories


not originals but copied from an original

dealing with

giving hope, a good sign

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