Health Highlights: July 23, 2014

CDC Lab Director Resigns Following Anthrax Scare Leading Doctor in Sierra Leone Ebola Outbreak Is Now Infected CDC Director Says Antibiotic Resistance a Growing Threat

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

CDC Lab Director Resigns Following Anthrax Scare

The director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention bioterrorism lab that was tied to a recent potential anthrax exposure has resigned.

According to the CDC, the potential exposure occurred between June 6 and 13 at the Bioterrorism Rapid Response and Advanced Technology (BRRAT) Laboratory. Lab staff had been prepping anthrax samples for use in other CDC labs in Atlanta and neglected to deactivate the samples, CNN reported.

BRRAT director Michael Farrell submitted his resignation Tuesday, CDC spokesman Tom Skinner told CNN. He had already been reassigned elsewhere once the anthrax scare became public.

The CDC's investigative report into the incident found that the oversight happened because the lab failed to follow approved sterilization methods, among other reasons.

"The scientists failed to follow a scientifically derived and reviewed protocol that would have assured the anthrax was deactivated," agency director Tom Frieden told CNN.


Leading Doctor in Sierra Leone Ebola Outbreak Is Now Infected

One of the leading physicians in the battle against an outbreak of deadly Ebola virus in Sierra Leone has himself become infected with the illness, news reports say.

According to UPI, Dr. Sheikh Uman Khan is now in a hospital in Kailahun, the epicenter of the epidemic in the West African nation. Ebola spreads easily between people and kills up to 90 percent of those infected. The World Health Organization says that, as of July 19, a total of 632 people have died in the outbreak in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Also according to UPI, health workers are among those falling ill. Sierra Leone newspaper Awareness Times reported that on Tuesday "four popular and dedicated health workers attached to Ebola center located inside Kenema Government Hospital have lost their lives."

There is currently no cure or antivirus against Ebola.


CDC Director Says Antibiotic Resistance a Growing Threat

Tougher measures to control antibiotic resistance need to be taken in the coming years, to avoid the possibility of it becoming the "next pandemic," the head of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday.

During an event at the National Press Club, CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden said the agency plans to isolate, track and prevent bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics in hospitals, USA Today reported.

Antibiotics and similar drugs -- which are also called antimicrobials -- have been used widely to treat infections for decades, according to the CDC, but that has caused some bacteria to mutate and become resistant to these drugs.

"Antimicrobial resistance has the potential to harm or kill anyone in the country, undermine modern medicine, to devastate our economy and to make our health care system less stable," Frieden said Tuesday, the newspaper reported. In fact, antibiotic resistance costs $20 billion in health care spending a year, he added.

Frieden also addressed recent safety lapses at U.S. government labs, which included the discovery of live samples of anthrax and a cross-contaminated strain of bird flu, USA Today reported. The incidents prompted the CDC to shutter two of its research labs and vow to strengthen its lab-safety regulations.

On Tuesday, Frieden reiterated that no one was exposed to any pathogens and that the agency continues to work on improving lab safety, according to the newspaper.

"If you work with dangerous organisms day after day, month after month, year after year, sometimes there is a tendency to get lax," Frieden said, USA Today reported. "What we have to ensure is that though human error may be inevitable, we should do everything in our power to make sure that . . . there will not be human harm."

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