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Pentagon: 22 possibly exposed to anthrax at U.S. airbase in South Korea

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno said the accidental shipment was likely not human error.

By
Amy R. Connolly
Under a high magnification of 12,483X, this scanning electron micrograph (SEM) depicted spores from the Sterne strain of Bacillus anthracis bacteria, or anthrax. Image courtesy CDC
Under a high magnification of 12,483X, this scanning electron micrograph (SEM) depicted spores from the Sterne strain of Bacillus anthracis bacteria, or anthrax. Image courtesy CDC

WASHINGTON, May 28 (UPI) -- Some 22 personnel at a U.S. airbase in South Korea may have been exposed to live anthrax after the U.S. Department of Defense mistakenly shipped out samples, officials said.

The samples sent from a U.S. Army lab at the Dugway Proving Ground, near Salt Lake City, to Osan Air Base were expected to be inert and harmless to use in a laboratory training exercise. Instead, the personnel possibly exposed were provided "appropriate medical precautionary measures to include examinations, antibiotics and in some instances, vaccinations."

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"None of the personnel have shown any signs of possible exposure," a statement from Osan Air Base said, adding emergency responders "destroyed the sample located in a self-contained contingency facility."

The samples were also sent to commercial labs in California, Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin.

RELATED Department of Defense mistakenly ships live anthrax to labs across country

Thursday, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno said the accidental shipment was likely not human error. Instead, he said the spores likely survived the process intended to kill it. There are no suspected or confirmed cases of anthrax infections, officials said.

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"I'm 99.9 percent confident that nobody's in danger," Odierno said.

He said an investigation by the Centers for Disease Control will look at procedural changes to ensure "even this minute amount would not get out again."

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