CDC Addresses Recent Anthrax, Bird Flu Safety Lapses

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a report reviewing the incident in June that involved the unintentional exposure of potentially viable anthrax at the CDC's Roybal Campus.

The report discusses factors contributing to the incident and actions taken by the agency to address the factors and prevent future incidents. The agency concluded that it is extremely unlikely that the staff members were exposed to viable B. anthracis, although it cannot be completely ruled out.

The CDC was also made aware that a culture of non-pathogenic avian influenza was accidentally cross-contaminated at the CDC influenza lab with the highly pathogenic H5N1 strain of influenza, and shipped to a BSL-3 select-agent laboratory operated by the USDA. No exposures resulted from that incident but the CDC influenza laboratory will remain closed until adequate procedures are put in place.

RELATED: Update: Anthrax Scare at the CDC

These two incidents have prompted the CDC to issue a moratorium on the movement of biological materials (eg, infectious agents, active or inactivated specimens) from BSL-3 or BSL-4 facilities. The report noted a lack of standard operating procedures to document when biological agents are properly inactivated in laboratories, as well as a lack of adequate laboratory oversight of scientists working in these labs.

Some of the key initiatives and recommendation being implemented include:

  • A review group, under the direction of CDC's Associate Director for Science, to look at the systems, procedures, and personnel issues leading to this event and means of preventing similar events in the future
  • A CDC-wide single point of accountability for laboratory safety
  • Appropriate personnel action taken with respect to individuals who contributed to or were in a position to prevent this incident
  • A review and update on all inactivation procedures for laboratories working with select agents and other dangerous pathogens throughout the CDC

For more information visit CDC.gov.

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