WHO advised Ukraine to destroy pathogens in laboratories amid war

March 11 (Reuters) – The World Health Organization advised Ukraine to destroy high-threat pathogens housed in the country’s public health laboratories to prevent “any potential spills” that would spread disease among the population, the agency told Reuters.

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Like many other countries, Ukraine has public health laboratories researching how to mitigate the threats of dangerous diseases affecting both animals and humans including, most recently, COVID-19. Its labs have received support from the United States, the European Union and the WHO.

Biosecurity experts say Russia’s movement of troops into Ukraine and bombardment of its cities have raised the risk of an escape of disease-causing pathogens, should any of those facilities be damaged.

In response to questions from Reuters about its work with Ukraine ahead of and during Russia’s invasion, the WHO said in an email on Thursday that it has collaborated with Ukrainian public health labs for several years to promote security practices that help prevent “accidental or deliberate release of pathogens.”

“As part of this work, WHO has strongly recommended to the Ministry of Health in Ukraine and other responsible bodies to destroy high-threat pathogens to prevent any potential spills,” the WHO, a United Nations agency, said.

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Ukraine’s laboratory capabilities have been at the center of a growing information war since Russia began moving troops into Ukraine two weeks ago.

On Friday, Russia called a meeting of the 15-member U.N. Security Council to reassert, without providing evidence, a longstanding claim that Ukraine ran biological weapons laboratories with U.S. Defense Department support. read more

Read US denies Russian claims of biowarfare labs in Ukraine

The accusation has been repeatedly denied by Ukraine and the United States, where government officials warn Russia may use it as a pretext to deploy its own chemical or biological weapons.

Izumi Nakamitsu, the U.N. High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, told the Security Council on Friday that the United Nations is “not aware” of any biological weapons program in Ukraine, which joined an international ban on such arms, as has Russia and the United States along with 180 other countries.

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U.N. officials have also said the WHO, in its work with Ukraine, is not aware of any activity in the country that would violate international treaties “including on chemical weapons or biological weapons.”

EXCLUSIVE WHO says it advised Ukraine to destroy pathogens in health labs to prevent disease spread  Reuters

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