Deadly flu samples still missing

Samples of a potentially lethal flu strain sent to Lebanon and Mexico did not reach the respective laboratories, the World Health Organization says. The WHO said it was trying to trace the samples, which were sent by a US testing organisation.

The samples are of Asian flu, which killed between one and four million people in 1957 but disappeared by 1968. More than 3,700 laboratories in 18 countries received the testing kits and have been racing to destroy the virus. The WHO says the virus could “easily cause an influenza epidemic” if not handled properly.

On 8 April, the US government asked the body to write to the laboratories affected – of which 61 are outside the US and Canada – telling them to destroy the samples. Current vaccines do not guard against the 50-year-old flu strain.

Given the concerns that the virus could be used in bio-terrorism, letters were sent to the laboratories before the mistake was made public.

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