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Volume 958: debated on Tuesday 21 November 1978

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asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will make a statement on the circumstances attendant upon the laboratory smallpox outbreak in Birmingham; and if he is now satisfied with the standard of safety precautions prevailing at this and any other disease experimental laboratories.

The circumstances are that on 24th August Mrs. J. Parker was admitted to hospital in Birmingham suffering from fever. Smallpox was later diagnosed and Mrs. Parker subsequently died. She had worked as a photographer in the anatomy department of Binningham university medical school and research work with smallpox virus was being performed, in association with the World Health Organisation, in the virus laboratory located in the same building. When the outbreak became known, my right hon. Friend immediately set up an investigation under the chairmanship of Professor R. A. Shooter, and I hope to receive the report before Christmas. Meanwhile I am satisfied that everything possible is being done to ensure that the standard of safety precautions at laboratories working with dangerous pathogenic micro-organisms is satisfactory.