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A pre-school child has joined the list of people who have tested negative for infection after possible exposure to a cancer-causing virus at the University's New Bolton Center in May, Provost Michael Aiken said last week. The University announced in August that 30 Veterinary School faculty, students and staff members who may have been exposed to the Human T-cell Lymphotropic Type 1 virus also tested negative. The students, faculty and staff members at the Chester County facility handled a flock of about 150 sheep, which included 14 lambs inoculated in April with the HTLV-1 virus, which can cause leukemia. About 100 preschool children and 30 chaperones who took field trips to the center were also in contact with the sheep. The University offered testing to all the preschoolers and chaperones, but the examination has only been requested for the one child. Aiken said last week that the University's offer to test any member of the group still stands. Vice Provost for Research Barry Cooperman said this week that although the negative results are a "very good sign and meaningful," the findings are not definitive. Cooperman said that because of the incubation period of the virus, all the tests will be repeated in six months to a year for final results. Experts from around the country and University officials said this summer that the risk of infection for the students, staff and faculty was very low. They added that the risk for the pre-schoolers was almost non-existent. The students and staff were not aware that any of the sheep had been inoculated with the virus when they performed routine operations on the flock, such as castration and tail-bobbing. Although University and federal regulations stipulate that inoculated animals be separated from the rest of the flock, the inoculated lambs were not isolated. The lambs were being used in a research project conducted by Microbiology Professor Jorge Ferrer. The Veterinary School announced in July that it would conduct an investigation into Ferrer's actions, and Cooperman has said that "appropriate action" would be taken depending on the probe's findings. A Vet School spokesperson said this week that the panel investigating the incident was is still studying the violation and would not comment on the probe. The investigation is due to be completed by October.

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