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CDC Lab Workers May Have Been Exposed to Anthrax

No risk to public; agency says safety procedures weren't followed

FRIDAY, June 20, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- As many as 75 staffers at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) may have been exposed to anthrax because safety procedures weren't followed properly, the agency said Thursday.

Early reports indicated that one of the CDC's higher level biosafety labs in Atlanta was preparing the anthrax samples for research in lower level labs. The higher level lab did not adequately inactivate the samples before sending them to the other labs, which aren't equipped to handle live anthrax samples. Workers at the lower level labs, believing the samples were inactivated, weren't wearing proper protective equipment while handling them, the agency said.

The potential exposures were discovered last Friday, June 13, the CDC said, when the original bacterial plates were gathered for disposal and B. anthracis colonies (live bacteria) were found on the plates. The workers handling the plates were immediately notified.

The CDC said an internal review continues to determine why the safety procedures weren't followed at the higher-level lab. "Given that CDC expert protocols were not followed, disciplinary action(s) will be taken as necessary," the news release said. The CDC said staffers in four of its laboratories were being monitored or provided antibiotics "out of an abundance of caution," but the "risk of infection is very low."

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