Pharmaceutical firm dumps polio virus into Belgium river

Posted Sep 23, 2014 by Tim Sandle
Staff working at a GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) facility dumped more than 45 liters of concentrated live polio into the water at a Belgian treatment plant earlier this month.
Photo of the Palais de la Nation  Belgian Federal Parliament taken by Alex Guibord in Brussels  Belg...
Photo of the Palais de la Nation, Belgian Federal Parliament taken by Alex Guibord in Brussels, Belgium.
The incident happened on September 2, although news of the event has only recently been reported. According to a statement from the Federal Public Service (FPS) Health, Food Chain Safety and Environment in Belgium “human error” resulted in the live virus making its way into the Lasne and Dyle rivers in Rixensart.
The cause of the “human error” is unknown, although it seems that some safety protocols were not followed. Facing Finance suggests that the error was due to an employee making a mistake in a usually routine tank cleaning process. What is known is that approximately 45 litres of water that was infected with the polio virus leaked from a water purification plant at the factory, according to Flanders News.
The safety notice continues: “The liquid was rejected, according to initial information provided by the firm GSK, due to human error during the process of vaccine production. The water from the treatment plant in question is not discharged to the supply network for drinking water.”
A Belgium governmental organisation, the Scientific Institute of Public Health and the Supreme Council of Health, has conducted a risk analysis and has concluded that users of the rivers, such as swimmers, anglers, and passers-by, are all at a very limited risk of infection. Nonetheless, the government agency does advise any person who is worried to check their vaccination status. Water plant workers, considered at higher risk of infection, were given polio vaccination.
Furthermore, according to the website Infowars, the government body indicates “For precautionary measures, samples of sludge and water from the treatment plant, the Lasne and Dyle will be taken to permit an assessment of the persistence of the virus. Pending these results, it is advised to avoid contact with the water downstream of the WWTP Rosieres, to the confluence of the Lasne with Dyle.”
Poliomyelitis (polio) is an acute, viral, infectious disease spread from person to person, primarily via the fecal-oral route. In around one per cent of infections, poliovirus spreads along certain nerve fiber pathways, preferentially replicating in and destroying motor neurons within the spinal cord, brain stem, or motor cortex. This leads to the development of paralytic poliomyelitis.
The River Laan/Lasne begins in the village of Plancenoit in the Walloon Brabant municipality of Lasne. The river then flows through Rixensart (Walloon Brabant) and then through the hamlets of Tombeek and Terlanen (Overijse, Flemish Brabant), before joining the River Dijle at Sint-Agatha-Rode (Flemish Brabant).