CDC issues tough report on anthrax scare

CDC issues tough report on anthrax scare
Agency places moratorium on transfer of dangerous germs from its high-level labs.

(HealthDay)—U.S. health officials have concluded that it's highly unlikely any lab workers were exposed to live anthrax during a safety mishap last month.

But, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials have announced a moratorium on the transfer of any dangerous germs or materials from high-level government labs.

In a report issued Friday, the CDC outlined several measures the agency will take to make sure a similar incident doesn't occur again. Last month, as many as 75 workers were potentially exposed to anthrax because safety procedures weren't followed.
Early reports had indicated that one of the CDC's high-level biosafety labs in Atlanta was preparing the anthrax samples for research in lower-level labs. The high-level lab did not adequately inactivate the samples before sending them to the other labs, which aren't equipped to handle live anthrax samples. Workers at the lower-level labs, believing the samples were inactivated, weren't wearing proper protective equipment while handling them, the agency has said.

Another safety incident, when coupled with the anthrax scare, prompted the moratorium, CDC officials said in a statement issued Friday.

In that second event that occurred earlier this year, a relatively benign strain of flu virus was accidentally cross-contaminated with the deadly H5N1 flu virus in the CDC's Influenza Laboratory. No staffers were exposed to the contaminated , but that lab has been shut down pending a final safety review.

"The report released today concludes that the scientists' failure to follow an approved, written study plan that met all laboratory safety requirements led to dozens of employees being potentially exposed [to anthrax]," CDC officials said in the statement.

"There was a lack of standard operating procedures to document when biological agents are properly inactivated in laboratories as well as a lack of adequate laboratory oversight of scientists performing work in these labs," they added.

Other actions the CDC plans to take include creating independent review groups that will find ways to speed up improvements to lab safety. Also, "appropriate personnel action will be taken with respect to individuals who contributed to or were in a position to prevent" the anthrax episode, the agency said.

According to the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), anthrax is actually a disease caused by a germ—bacillus anthracis—that lives in soil. Anthrax is rare, though potentially fatal, and typically affects animals, including cattle, sheep and goats, more often than people. People can get anthrax from contact with infected animals, meat or hides.

Antibiotics can cure anthrax if it's diagnosed early. But many people don't know they have anthrax until it's too late for treatment. A vaccine to prevent anthrax is available for people in the military and others at high risk, according to the NIH.

Anthrax made headlines in 2001 during the bioterror attacks. In the attacks, someone purposely spread through the U.S. mail system, killing five people and sickening 22.

More information: For more on anthrax, visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Full Article
More Information

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Dozens of US workers taking anti-anthrax drugs

Jun 20, 2014

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says at least 52 workers are taking antibiotics as a precaution because of a lab safety problem that may have accidentally exposed them to anthrax.

US govt lab mixed up potent flu strain

Jul 11, 2014

A US government laboratory mistakenly mixed a common flu strain with a dangerous and deadly type of bird flu and shipped it to another lab, authorities said Friday.

Recommended for you

Nigeria confirms two new Ebola cases

7 hours ago

Two new cases of Ebola have emerged in Nigeria and, in an alarming development, they are outside the group of caregivers who treated an airline passenger who arrived with Ebola and died, Health Minister Onyebuchi ...

Senegal closes border as UN warns on Ebola flare-up

12 hours ago

Senegal has become the latest country to seal its border with a west African neighbour to ward off the deadly Ebola virus, as the new UN pointman on the epidemic said preparations must be made for a possible flare-up of the ...

Climate change could see dengue fever come to Europe

12 hours ago

Dengue fever could make headway in popular European holiday destinations if climate change continues on its predicted trajectory, according to research published in open access journal BMC Public Health.

American Ebola doc: 'I am thrilled to be alive'

20 hours ago

Calling it a "miraculous day," an American doctor infected with Ebola left his isolation unit and warmly hugged his doctors and nurses on Thursday, showing the world that he poses no public health threat ...

User comments