Anthrax scare reveals more CDC lab safety problems - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Anthrax scare reveals more CDC lab safety problems

Posted: Updated:
  • NationalMore>>

  • Senator says he had PTSD when he wrote thesis

    Senator says he had PTSD when he wrote thesis

    Wednesday, July 23 2014 8:24 PM EDT2014-07-24 00:24:24 GMT
    Montana Sen. John Walsh's thesis written for the U.S. Army War College contains unattributed passages that appear to be taken word-for-word from previously published papers.More
    Sen. John Walsh of Montana said Wednesday his failure to attribute conclusions and verbatim passages lifted from other scholars' work in his thesis to earn a master's degree from the U.S. Army War College was an...More
  • Arizona inmate dies 2 hours after execution began

    Arizona inmate dies 2 hours after execution began

    Wednesday, July 23 2014 8:23 PM EDT2014-07-24 00:23:08 GMT
    The U.S. Supreme Court cleared the way for Arizona to carry out its third execution in the past year Wednesday following a closely watched First Amendment fight over the secrecy surrounding lethal injection drugs.More
    A condemned Arizona inmate gasped and snorted for more than an hour and a half during his execution Wednesday before he died in an episode sure to add to the scrutiny surrounding the death penalty in the U.S.More
  • Judge strikes down gay marriage ban, stays ruling

    Judge strikes down gay marriage ban, stays ruling

    Wednesday, July 23 2014 7:52 PM EDT2014-07-23 23:52:14 GMT
    A federal judge in Denver has declared Colorado's gay marriage ban unconstitutional, but he issued a temporary stay of the ruling until an appeals court hearing next month.More
    A federal judge in Denver declared Colorado's gay marriage ban unconstitutional on Wednesday, but he issued a temporary stay of the ruling to give the state until next month to seek an appeal.More
By MIKE STOBBE
AP Medical Writer

NEW YORK (AP) - Citing an anthrax scare and other safety problems, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday said it shut down two research labs and stopped shipping highly dangerous germs to other labs.

An incident at one of the closed Atlanta labs could have accidentally exposed workers in three labs to anthrax last month. A second, previously undisclosed problem earlier this year involved deadly bird flu.

The CDC also released a report that detailed three other incidents in the past decade in which mistakes or other problems caused potentially dangerous germs to be sent out. No lab worker or member of the public was sickened in any of the incidents, the CDC said.

The federal agency operates some of the world's most advanced and most secure laboratories for the handling of deadly germs, and has enjoyed a reputation as a role model for that kind of work. During a press conference Friday, CDC director Dr. Tom Frieden said he was upset by the carelessness.

"I'm just astonished that this could have happened here," he said.

Frieden said internal and outside panels will investigate both recent problems and review safety procedures for handling dangerous germs.

Friday's disclosures came days after the government revealed that 60-year-old vials of smallpox virus had been forgotten in a lab building at the National Institutes of Health campus in Bethesda, Maryland.

Frieden said Friday that tests show that two of the six vials had live virus. More testing is going on, but all the samples are to be destroyed. No infections have been reported in that incident, either.

Smallpox was one of the most lethal diseases until a vaccine was developed. It was declared eradicated in the 1980s, and all known live virus is stored at CDC headquarters in Atlanta or in Russia.

The CDC shipment moratorium applies to specially built labs in Atlanta and Fort Collins, Colorado, that deal with the most dangerous infectious germs. Work in the labs includes developing vaccines and medications and finding faster ways to diagnose infection.

"They deal with the most sensitive infectious agents and so we expect they will adhere to very high standards," said Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University.

Schaffner called the CDC's disclosures "disturbing," but praised the CDC for being candid and for taking steps to prevent future mishaps.

Frieden said "appropriate personnel action" will be taken against any employees who caused or failed to prevent the safety failures. No matter how terrifying these germs can be, "if you work with something day in and day out, (eventually) you can get a little careless," he said.

The anthrax incident occurred in a lab that works on germs that can be used in bioterrorism. A CDC report issued Friday showed the problem started on June 5 when a scientist who was new to the lab used live anthrax for an experiment which did not require use of such a dangerous bacteria. There were other errors - perhaps chief among them, samples weren't sterilized as expected before being sent out to two other less secure CDC labs.

When the mistakes were discovered, the agency offered antibiotics and other treatment to dozens of potentially exposed workers.

In the flu incident, the CDC said a sample of an animal flu virus was accidentally contaminated with a deadly bird flu germ. That sample was then sent to another lab run by the U.S. Department of Agriculture - which discovered the contamination in May. The problem wasn't reported to CDC's top management until this week, Frieden said.

Frieden said he was angry about the delay, and employees could be disciplined not only for errors but also for failing to report them.

The CDC also noted three incidents of similar lapses over the past decade. In 2006, anthrax DNA was sent to two outside labs. The CDC lab thought it had sterilized the anthrax, but later learned it was still potent.

Members of Congress voiced concern about the CDC disclosures. Sixteen senators signed a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell, calling for a careful review of safety policies at HHS agencies - including the CDC and NIH.

One biosecurity expert said it's important for CDC to identify and fix any safety problems. But he worries the public will overreact.

"I fear a backlash against this research that I consider very, very vital," said Dr. Amesh Adalja of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

___

Online:

CDC: http://www.cdc.gov

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • InternationalMore>>

  • Honduran families deported back to a bleak future

    Honduran families deported back to a bleak future

    Wednesday, July 23 2014 7:44 PM EDT2014-07-23 23:44:48 GMT
    Elsa Ramirez already had lost two brothers to violence in this remote Caribbean region when co-workers handling clandestine cocaine flights from South America murdered her husband four months ago.More
    Elsa Ramirez already had lost two brothers to violence in this remote Caribbean region when co-workers handling clandestine cocaine flights from South America murdered her husband four months ago.More
  • European carriers suspend more Tel Aviv flights

    European carriers suspend more Tel Aviv flights

    Wednesday, July 23 2014 6:43 PM EDT2014-07-23 22:43:21 GMT
    Germany's largest airline, Lufthansa, says it is cancelling all flights to Tel Aviv for at least another 24 hours because of ongoing safety concerns.More
    Air France and Germany's two largest airlines on Wednesday canceled more flights to Tel Aviv because of safety concerns amid the fighting between Israel and Hamas.More
  • Iraq: al-Maliki rejects Iran's urging to step down

    Iraq: al-Maliki rejects Iran's urging to step down

    Wednesday, July 23 2014 6:33 PM EDT2014-07-23 22:33:43 GMT
    Iraqi officials say the death toll from a late night suicide attack targeting a police checkpoint in Baghdad has climbed to 31 people, most of them civilians.More
    Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki rejected an attempt by Iran to persuade him to step down, senior Iraqi politicians said Wednesday, underlining his determination to defy even his top ally to push for a third term...More
Powered by WorldNow

All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Worldnow and WBOC. All Rights Reserved. For more information on this site, please read our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service