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Human Folly

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Plague Infected Lab Mice Are Loose


By James Donahue

Sept. 16, 2005


Three mice infected with bubonic plague bacteria went missing from a Newark, New Jersey research laboratory about two weeks ago and nobody has a clue as to what happened to them.


The bubonic plague, while a nasty bug, is no longer as deadly as it once was because it can be treated with available antibiotics. But the concept of that kind of carelessness in research institutions that are playing with deadly bugs like that is alarming.


What if the mice had been infected with something more lethal, like smallpox or perhaps an experimental new virus designed for germ warfare? These kinds of laboratories exist in countries all over the world.


That humans are crazy enough to play such doomsday games with the microbes among us reflects the insanity that appears to be gripping the world just now.


Why, for example, did this laboratory feel that it was necessary to infect these mice with the bubonic plague bacteria? We already know how this disease is spread . . . via fleas from the mice . . . and we know what it does to humans and we know how to treat it. Or do we?


Was this laboratory experimenting with new and more deadly strains of plague?


The “federal officials” at the laboratory tell us not to worry about the missing mice. They assure us that everything is all right, and there is nothing to worry about. Where have we heard that before?


The official line is that there may simply have been a clerical error, and that the missing mice never existed. Other alternatives were that the mice were stolen, they were eaten by other laboratory animals, or if they escaped from the lab, they have already died from the disease.


All of the possibilities are troublesome.


A clerical error suggests that controls at this laboratory are slipshod at best. They have no business tinkering with deadly bugs.


If eaten by other animals, has the plague spread throughout the animals in the laboratory? If not, then perhaps they were not eaten.


And if they escaped, the mice may be dead, but what about the fleas they picked up while roaming in the wild? Are the fleas carrying the plague and riding around on the backs of other animals, perhaps someone’s house cat?


There may be more to this story than meets the eye.

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