The Michigan Daily - Thursday, April 14, 2005 - 5A
U.S health officials work to
limit labs handling flu virus
Samples that were sent
to thousands of testing
sites will be destroyed
WASHINGTON (AP) - Even as they
sought to reassure a wary public, federal
health officials detailed plans yesterday to
restrict the number of labs that can handle
deadly flu viruses like the ones sent to thou-
sands of facilities worldwide.
"We are working on the side of caution,"
said Julie Gerberding, director of the Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention.
Labs around the world tracked and destroyed
samples of the deadly flu strain, which has
been included in a kit designed to test a lab's
ability to identify viruses. The CDC was try-
ing to determine why the deadly H2N2 flu
virus was included in the first place.
"We are very concerned that this particular
strain of virus was used for proficiency test-
ing," Gerberding said.
Gerberding repeatedly described the risk of
somebody contracting the virus as minimal.
"If an unusual virus had emerged, we would
have known it by now," she said.
Still, she said, the agency was intent on
ensuring that every sample shipped to more
than 4,000 labs in 18 countries or territories
had been destroyed. So far, about 1,000 labs
have sent statements to the College of Ameri-
can Pathologists confirming the samples they
received were destroyed.
The World Health Organization's influenza
chief, Klaus Stohr, said he was "relatively
confident" most of the samples outside the
United States would be destroyed tomorrow.
Canada, South Korea, Hong Kong and Sin-
gapore have destroyed their samples, while
Japan was doing the same, WHO said. Tai-
wan and Germany announced that they had
destroyed all their vials.
The germ, the 1957 H2N2 "Asian flu"
strain, killed between 1 million and 4 million
people. It has not been included in flu vac-
cines since 1968; anyone born after that date
has little or no immunity to it.
The samples were sent, beginning in Sep-
tember, as part of a testing process that mea-
sures a laboratory's proficiency in detecting
various strains of influenza. The College of
American Pathologists directs the testing and
contracted with Meridian Bioscience, a com-
pany based in Cincinnati, to distribute the test
A Canadian lab alerted WHO last month
that the kit included the 1957 strain.
Gerberding said it was not clear why such
a dangerous strain of influenza was included
in the test kits.
"It's impossible to believe they did not
know they were dealing with H2N2," Ger-
The College of American Pathologists said
Wednesday that it was the association's policy
not to have the kits include micro-organisms
that can harm people.
Jared Schwartz, an officer with the organi-
zation, said Meridian thought it had sent an
ordinary flu strain. He said Meridian found
the virus in a "germ library" in 2000 that had
come from another company.
Gerberding said the CDC would move
quickly to update guidelines for how influ-
enza strains are tested. That would mean lim-
iting the handling of dangerous flu strains to
labs that have extra protections in place for
Gerberding said CDC and the National
Institutes of Health had recommended that
deadly flu viruses be handled by level 3 labs,
which require special hoods and clothing to
ensure that workers do not inhale a specimen.
Currently, the'}strain can be handled by level
2 facilities, which do not require as stringent
Congressional action is also possible.
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, (R-
Tenn.), a heart-lung surgeon, said the ship-
ments underscored "the need to bolster
America's domestic and global public health
Added Sen. Ted Kennedy of Massachu-
setts, the top Democrat on the Senate Health,
Education, Labor and Pensions Committee:
"Hopefully, it is a loud wake-up call for action
by Congress and the administration to expe-
dite the urgently needed investments in hos-
pitals and all our other public health defenses,
before this alarming series of errors becomes
a massive national tragedy."
White House press secretary Scott McClel-
lan said action to prevent a recurrence was ""a
high priority for our government."
"What we're asking is that if anybody
sees any suspicious illness that it be reported
immediately," he said.
Woman who found finger in food will not sue Wendy's
LAS VEGAS (AP) - A woman who claimed she
scooped up a human finger in her chili at a Wendy's res-
taurant has decided not to sue the fast-food chain, her
lawyer said yesterday.
Anna Ayala is dropping her claim because the police
investigations, DNA tests, a search of her home and
intense publicity have "been very difficult for her emo-
tionally," Attorney Jeffrey Janoff said.
He would not say if the decision was prompted by a
report a woman in Nevada had lost her finger a month
earlier in a leopard attack, and that it might be related to
San Jose, Calif., police said they were investigating a
possible connection to the finger of a woman who owned
several exotic animals - and lost a digit in a Feb. 23 leop-
ard attack, the San Jose Mercury-News reported.
Sandy Allman reportedly got her finger back in a bag
of ice, and it could not be reattached after the attack in
Pahrump, about 60 miles west of Las Vegas.
Ayala was visiting relatives in San Jose on yesterday
and could not be reached for comment, said her son,
Guadalupe Reyes, 18.
The teenager said Ayala doesn't known Allman. "Mom
doesn't even know how to get to Pahrump," Reyes said,
adding that his mother was distressed by all the atten-
"The way I see it, it's like a big show," Reyes said.
"Everyone's saying this and that. It's ridiculous. People
are just trying to get the $50,000" reward offered by
Efforts to contact Allman were unsuccessful.
Ayala, 39, was at a Wendy's restaurant in San Jose
on March 22 when she claimed she scooped up the 1
1/2-inch-long fingertip. She later filed a claim with the
franchise owner, Fresno-based JEM Management Corp.,
which her attorney had said was the first step before fil-
ing a lawsuit.
Court records show Ayala has a history of mak-
ing claims against corporations, including a former
employer, General Motors and a fast-food restaurant.
"The way I see it, it's like a big show. Everyone's saying this and
that. It's ridiculous. People are just trying to get the $50,000 reward
offered by Wendy's."
- Guadalupe Reyes
Son of Anna Ayala, the woman who claimed she found a human finger in her chili at a Wendy's restaurant
She acknowledged getting a settlement several years
ago after her daughter was sickened at a Las Vegas res-
"Lies, lies, lies, that's all I am hearing," she said last
week after her home was searched last week by police.
"They should look at Wendy's. What are they hiding?
Why are we being victimized again and again?"
Clark County District Attorney David Roger said
yesterday documents relating to the warrant had been
Wendy's spokesman Denny Lynch declined to com-
ment on Ayala's decision to drop the lawsuit, but said a
reward hot line will stay open. "It's very important to
us to find out what really happened at the restaurant,"
Wendy's maintains the finger did not enter the chili in
its ingredients. All the employees at the San Jose store
were found to have all their fingers, and no suppliers of
Wendy's ingredients have reported any hand or finger
injuries, the company said.
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