Aids Antibodies Found In Bayonne Beach Vials

Posted: July 07, 1988

TRENTON — State investigators announced yesterday that, for the second time in a month, AIDS antibodies have been found in vials of blood that washed ashore in New Jersey.

More than 100 vials, discovered on a small beach in Bayonne on Sunday, were tested and health officials said five of the small containers were contaminated. Similarly, several vials that had washed up in Ocean County last month were found to contain AIDS antibodies as well as a hepatitis virus.

Although he urged beachgoers not to touch such containers and to report them to police or health authorities, Thomas A. Burke, a deputy commissioner of the New Jersey Health Department, said there was little or no risk of exposure to AIDS because the antibodies cannot usually survive outside the body.

He said, "We think beachgoers should not touch these things."

At the same time health officials in New Jersey were making their announcement, authorities on Long Island, N.Y., were closing four beaches along the South Shore in Nassau County. Discarded medical supplies including blood-filled vials had washed ashore there yesterday afternoon, and authorities said they planned to have the vials tested.

In New Jersey on Sunday, two boys found about 40 vials washed ashore from Newark Bay in Bayonne. The small containers, which have rubber stoppers and resemble short test tubes, were found along a 150-foot beach in an industrial area that is not usually used for recreation.

Authorities said the boys threw the vials in a trash can but later contacted Bayonne police. Officers and investigators from the Attorney General's Office retrieved them, and after searching the beach found even more containers, bringing the total to 105.

One of the vials was damaged before it could be tested. Of the 104 others tested, five contained the AIDS antibodies.

John Hegerty, a spokesman for the Attorney General's Office, said 64 of the vials were in "Ziploc-like" bags that were unmarked. The bags prevented the vials from being damaged or weathered, he said, and a manufacturer's label could be identified on the small containers.

He declined to identify the manufacturer but said the label might help investigators determine who dumped the containers.

The incident was the second this summer in which AIDS-tainted vials have washed onto New Jersey beaches, already beleaguered for the last few summers by hospital waste and garbage slicks.

On June 3 and 4, two vials containing AIDS antibodies and a third containing blood contaminated with hepatitis - a hardier virus much more likely to survive outside the body - were found along a beach in Ocean County. Also, over the first four days of June, more than 40 hypodermic syringes were found by police at Island Beach State Park.

None of the blood in the containers found in Bayonne contained hepatitis.

Those vials found over the weekend are about three inches long and a half- inch in diameter, smaller than the ones discovered in June, Hegerty said.

Because of the size difference, Hegerty said, there appeared to be no connection between the vials found last month and those discovered Sunday.

Burke said the vials found Sunday appeared to have come from a lab or other facility that had been testing the blood in them. He said the containers had been "spun" on a centrifuge to separate the solids in the blood from the liquid, a common lab procedure.

The bottoms of the vials contained the solids, colored dark red, while at the tops was a yellowish liquid, Burke said.

"It had been worked on in a lab," he said.

Investigators from the Attorney General's Office are trying to find the source of the vials, but Hegerty would not say what success they were having.

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