Investigation Finds Multiple ‘Serious’ Incidents Occurred At Government Labs Storing Deadly Diseases

Saturday, July 12, 2014
By Paul Martin

Hunter Walker
July 12, 2014

On Friday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released the results of an investigation conducted after “potentially viable anthrax” was accidentally released at one of the agencies facilities in Atlanta, Georgia last month. The investigation described the situation as “serious” and found there were multiple other instances where dangerous pathogens were inadvertently released at CDC labs including one incident “earlier this year” involving a “highly pathogenic” H5N1 strain of bird flu that only came to light during the course of the investigation.

“I will say that I’m just astonished that this could have happened here,” CDC Director Tom Frieden said at a press conference Friday announcing the results of the report.

According to the report, the anthrax was released after a scientist at the CDC’s Bioterrorism Rapid Response and Advanced Technology (BRRAT) laboratory prepared extracts of eight “bacterial select agents” as part of an experiment to evaluate a potentially faster way to detect anthrax. The samples used in the lab were believed to be sterile after being treated and observed for 24 hours and were subsequently moved to a lower security lab. On June 13, the report said a CDC scientist noticed “unexpected growth on the anthrax sterility plate” that indicated “the B. anthracis sample extract may not have been sterile when transferred.”

The investigation determined it was “extremely unlikely” CDC staff were exposed to anthrax, however, it was “not impossible.” Multiple staff members were taken to the emergency room for treatment and the report said, as of July 10, “no staff members are believed to have become ill with anthrax.” Still, the report found the situation was “serious.”

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