CDC: 75 government scientists may have been exposed to live anthrax

The agency is on alert after researchers at a federal lab in Atlanta "failed to follow proper procedures"

Lindsay Abrams
June 20, 2014 12:31AM (UTC)

A failure to follow protocol may have exposed up to 75 scientists working in U.S. federal government laboratories in Atlanta to live anthrax, the CDC said Thursday. About 7 scientists appear to have come into direct contact with the bacteria, but to be safe, everyone working in the labs is being offered a 60-day antibiotic regime along with the anthrax vaccine.

Reuters has the exclusive:


The potential exposure occurred after researchers working in a high-level biosecurity laboratory at the agency's Atlanta campus failed to follow proper procedures to inactivate the bacteria. They then transferred the samples, which may have contained live bacteria, to lower-security CDC labs not equipped to handle live anthrax.

Dr Paul Meechan, director of the environmental health and safety compliance office at the CDC, said the agency discovered the potential exposure on the evening of Friday, June 13, and immediately began contacting individuals working in the labs who may have unknowingly handled live anthrax bacteria.

"No employee has shown any symptoms of anthrax illness," Meechan told Reuters.

...Meechan said it is too early to determine whether the transfer was accidental or intentional. He said that all employees who were doing procedures to inactivate the bacteria were working in a biosecurity laboratory and were "tier one select agent approved," meaning they had undergone a security reliability review and deemed to be "stable, trustworthy individuals."

Lindsay Abrams

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