Bird flu workers put themselves at risk

Two workers at a government laboratory scratched themselves with needles risking contamination with the H5N1 bird flu strain, it has been revealed.

Both were treated with anti-viral drugs and subsequently tested negative.

The incidents at the Veterinary Laboratories Agency (VLA) at Weybridge in Surrey came to light following a BBC Freedom of Information request.

The VLA has reported 80 incidents over five years and continually reviews risk assessments and procedures.

In the first incident involving the laboratory worker, a duck dosed with H5N1 was being euthanased when the technician accidentally scratched herself.

A few days later a second worker was injecting eggs with the same flu strain and was accidentally pricked.

Details of other incidents revealed to the BBC include:
  • a lab worker who was bitten by a rabid mouse
  • a technician bitten by a mouse infected with BSE
  • the banning of work experience students from post-mortem examinations after one was accidentally exposed to Bovine TB
  • damage caused to the anthrax laboratory at Weybridge after it was flooded by a leaking pipe
Bird-flu workers risked infection (BBC News, 25 April 2009)