CDC admits improperly sending dangerous pathogens five times in last decade

"These events should never have happened," said CDC Director Tom Frieden.
By Brooks Hays   |   July 11, 2014 at 2:21 PM   |   Comments

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ATLANTA, July 11 (UPI) -- The laboratories at the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, Georgia, are one of only a few places in the world allowed to handle dangerous pathogens like anthrax and smallpox, and one would think they'd take that responsibility very seriously.

But in a new report outlining protocol breaches, the CDC admitted to having improperly sent dangerous bacterium, viruses or other microorganisms five times over the last decade. That's one potentially deadly mistake every two years.

"These events should never have happened," CDC Director Tom Frieden told reporters this week.

"[The American people] may be wondering whether we're doing what we need to do to keep them safe and to keep our workers safe," Frieden continued. "I'm disappointed, and frankly I'm angry about it."

Frieden isn't the only one who's angry. Several dozen people have been put in harm's way as a result of the slip-ups, though no illnesses or injuries have resulted.

"Fortunately none of these incidents resulted in anyone becoming infected or getting sick," Frieden said. "The organisms involved were all safely disposed of."

The most recent of the five mistakes -- the one that prompted officials to further investigate the agency's safety track record -- occurred last month when at least 84 workers were reportedly exposed to live anthrax samples when employees unknowingly sent the bacteria from one CDC lab to another.

Only a few months prior, the CDC apparently improperly sent the "highly pathogenic" H5N1 influenza virus to a U.S. Department of Agriculture laboratory in Georgia.

The agency is currently reviewing all its safety protocols.

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