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CDC's Flu and Anthrax Labs Closed After Safety Breaches — Physician’s First Watch

Medical News |
July 14, 2014

CDC's Flu and Anthrax Labs Closed After Safety Breaches

By Amy Orciari Herman

Edited by Susan Sadoughi, MD, and André Sofair, MD, MPH

The CDC has closed its influenza and anthrax laboratories after two safety breaches could have exposed workers to dangerous pathogens.

In a news release on Friday, the agency said that while it is "extremely unlikely" that the widely publicized anthrax incident of early June exposed CDC workers to live bacteria, such exposures couldn't be ruled out. The agency also reported that earlier in 2014, a culture of nonpathogenic avian influenza was unintentionally cross-contaminated with highly pathogenic H5N1 at the CDC's flu lab and then shipped to a U.S. Department of Agriculture lab; no exposures occurred.

Adding insult to injury, two of six vials of smallpox from the 1950s recently discovered in an NIH lab have been found to contain viable virus, the New York Times reports.

The Times quotes CDC Director Tom Frieden: "These events revealed totally unacceptable behavior. ... I'm upset, I'm angry, I've lost sleep over this, and I'm working on it until the issue is resolved."

The CDC says it's taking multiple measures to prevent future incidents, including working to develop an external advisory group for laboratory safety.

Reader Comments (1)

Aliceann CArlton Other Healthcare Professional, Other, Eastern Montana Community Mental Health

The point at which funding is cut off is suggestive of lax protocol integrity by all involved, including oversight by principle researchers. It seems to me the CDC needs to conduct more oversight and reviews of the project applicant before granting funding, facilities, adherence to research design and protocols, and rigorous staff work skills and reference/background checks. Is there a gap in the CDC's ability to do this?

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