Tuesday, August 07, 2007

HSE Pirbright report, initial findings

The Health and Safety Executives initial report is available here.

Firstly it says that the strain that caused the outbreak is the same as the one worked on at both Merial Animal Health and the Institute of Animal Health. What it fails to do, is to say which one was responsible. Further tests are being carried out to ascertain which one it was.

On potential airborne release, the report says:

  • We found no evidence of any working practices or incidents such as laboratory spillages or leakages from plant or equipment which could have led to a release of the FMDV strain within the contained working environment at either organisation.
    We confirmed that all air being discharged to atmosphere from the contained working environments is first passed through a minimum of two high-efficiency particulate arrestance (HEPA) air filters.
  • We confirmed that there is continuous monitoring of the pressures of the ventilation systems of the facility and that the HEPA filters are routinely integrity tested in line with regulatory requirements.
Well, that seems to fly in the face of what people at the site have been telling the Sun, here.

However the report initially doubts wind because it was in the wrong direction for most of the time frame. Further investigation is being carried out.

On waterborne release, the report is clear that this could not have happened in the animal isolation unit of the IoH, because they are in essence very happy with the effluent treatment plant.

The rest of the IoH and Merial share a system, which the HSE is unhappy with, however they doubt that the outbreak could have spread from the site to the farm because the flow of water was wrong.

So having ruled out all other possible causes they have only left human intervention, either accidental or deliberate, and reading one of the articles in the sun in my earlier post that is a possibility. They are investigating this angle as well.

In summary:

  • It is highly likely that the outbreak started on the Pirbright site.
  • We do not as yet know whether it was the IoH or Merial.
  • We have indications it was not air or waterborne, but no firm answers.
  • Humans are likely to get the blame.
So, we are not much further forward from what we knew already. However apparently the report may have been delayed while the political implications were considered (BBC Radio 4 reports). Hmm.. this has the makings of a good conspiracy theory.

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