Pentagon to look into shipping of live anthrax samples
US army facility in Utah, mistakenly sent samples of suspected live anthrax to 11 states across US, 2 more than first acknowledged, in addition to labs in Australia and South Korea. The US military said it discovered more suspected shipments of live anthrax and ordered a review of practices meant to inactivate the bacteria. The incident comes 11 months after CDC similarly mishandled anthrax.
Centers for Disease and Control temporarily closed the flu and anthrax labs in Atlanta and stopped all shipments of infectious agents after lab accidents. CDC employees were exposed to live anthrax after potentially infectious samples were sent to labs unequipped to handle them. In another accident, a CDC lab accidentally contaminated a benign flu sample with a dangerous strain of H5N1 bird flu.
CDC chief Thomas Frieden testified that employees may have been exposed to live anthrax in the incident that occurred in June during the transfer of bacterial samples. "We missed a critical pattern. " he said. "And the pattern is an insufficient culture of safety." The internal investigation at CDC revealed that there were four other incidents in the past decade when pathogens were mishandled.
After the CDC employees' exposure to anthrax at the Atlanta facility, director of CDC Michael Farrell resigned from his position. A federal investigation found that microbes were transported between labs in ziplock bags - containers which fail to meet the CDC'c durability requirement. An internal investigation found safety lapses, including unapproved sterilization technique and use of a live potent type of anthrax for experimentation.
A biological attack, or bioterrorism, is the intentional release of viruses, bacteria, or other germs that can sicken or kill people, livestock, or crops. Bacillus anthracis, the bacteria that causes anthrax, is one of the most likely agents to be used in a biological attack.
US military inadvertently shipped suspected live anthrax samples to nine labs across US and to a US military base - Osan Air Base in South Korea. 22 personnel at the military base in S Korea received preventive treatment. Pentagon said, "The sample was destroyed in accordance with appropriate protocols." Four civilians in the US have also begun taking preventive measures.