Military ‘Inadvertently’ Sent Anthrax Samples to Labs Across the Country

A microbiologist checks a petri dish for a bacteria culture in the micro biological laboratory of the regional authorities for food security and consumer protection in the German state Thuringia in Erfurt, eastern Germany, on Saturday, Nov. 3, 2001. Final tests on powder found in a letter that touched off …
AP File Photo/Jens Meyer

The Pentagon had to admit, Wednesday, that it had accidentally sent live anthrax samples to nearly a dozen labs across the country and at least one overseas. They are now working with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to contain the shipments.

On Wednesday, Army Col. Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman, released a statement saying, “The Department of Defense is collaborating with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in their investigation of the inadvertent transfer of samples containing live Bacillus anthracis, also known as anthrax, from a DoD lab in Dugway, Utah, to labs in nine states.”

“There is no known risk to the general public, and there are no suspected or confirmed cases of anthrax infection in potentially exposed lab workers. The DoD lab was working as part of a DoD effort to develop a field-based test to identify biological threats in the environment,” the Colonel continued. “Out of an abundance of caution, DoD has stopped the shipment of this material from its labs pending completion of the investigation.”

The CDC is now investigating the situation and also reports that there is no danger to the public.

“CDC is working in conjunction with state and federal partners to conduct an investigation with all the labs that received samples from the DOD,” CDC spokesman Jason McDonald said. “The ongoing investigation includes determining if the labs also received other live samples, epidemiologic consultation, worker safety review, laboratory analysis and handling of laboratory waste.”

Before being halted, the shipments were sent to labs in Texas, Maryland, Wisconsin, Delaware, New Jersey, Tennessee, New York, California, Virginia, and even South Korea.

The first lab to alert the Pentagon that it had received live samples of anthrax was the lab in Maryland.

Neither the CDC nor the Pentagon can confirm exactly how many labs might have been the recipients of the anthrax until the CDC investigation is concluded.

This isn’t the first time that a dangerous virus was shipped across the country. Last year, the CDC itself accidentally shipped a virulent strain of the bird flu, causing lawmakers to cite the organization as exhibiting a “dangerous pattern” of safety lapses.

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