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HSE Publishes Initial Report On Potential Breaches Of Biosecurity At The Pirbright Site

July 25, 2017

The Chief Executive of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) Geoffrey Podger said:

"I have today passed HSE's initial report on potential breaches of biosecurity at the Pirbright site to the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

"The investigation to date has concentrated on biosecurity issues associated with FMDV strain 01BFS67 as this was the strain associated with the outbreak in farms in the Pirbright vicinity. The team carried out inspections of all facilities of both the Institute for Animal Health (IAH) and Merial Animal Health Limited (Merial) sites where the FMDV strain is handled. This involved checking key biosecurity measures including engineering controls, management systems, working practices, reviewing record logs and documents, interviewing staff and visually inspecting all the facilities.

"Subject to ongoing work, the key indications are:

-- there is a strong possibility that the FMDV strain involved in the outbreak originated from the IAH or the Merial site;

-- there is negligible likelihood that there was an airborne release from the IAH or Merial sites which subsequently transferred to the first affected farm between 14th and 25th July 2007;

-- preliminary investigations into the possibility of surface water flooding from the site could have reached and contaminated the affected farm have indicated that this was negligible, due to the distance, topography and direction of flow;

-- release by human movement must also be considered a real possibility.

"My assessment is that there is no reason to prevent the Institute of Animal Health from operating providing that all the usual biosecurity protocols are followed rigorously. The situation regarding Merial is less clear cut, and I would advise that further work be done before any operations involving live pathogens are restarted. As the report indicates there are doubts about the integrity of the drainage system, including pipe work which leads to the final effluent treatment plant.

"All these issues are still being investigated and we will report further. In addition we will be working closely with the Independent Review."

The report is on the HSE website at: hse/news/archive/07aug/pirbright.htm

HSE has led an initial investigation into biosecurity issues at the Pirbright laboratory facilities (Merial Animal Health Limited, and the Institute for Animal Health). This initial investigation involved support from relevant experts, including those from Defra, the Veterinary Medicines Directorate and the Environment Agency.

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