The CDC is taking a number of steps to prevent a repeat of the incident in June when a number of its Atlanta based employees were exposed to live Anthrax samples which were not properly inactivated.
The CDC in a carefully drafted report about the episode, which was released on July 11, said that until it is made sure that the staff at the Bioterrorism Rapid Response and Advanced Technology, or BRRAT where the Anthrax samples were prepared, is fully aware of the safety procedures and protocols, the lab will remain closed.
“Appropriate personnel action will be taken with respect to individuals who contributed to or were in a position to prevent this incident,” the report added.
BRRAT Lab had prepared the Anthrax samples which were to be used for research by CDC labs. However the BRRAT lab did not sufficiently inactivate the highly infectious samples and inadvertently exposed other staff to the deadly pathogen. Anthrax is a very virulent disease which left untreated can lead to severe illness and even death.
“This was a serious event that should not have happened,” the report said. “Though it now appears that the risk to any individual was either non-existent or very small, the issues raised by this event are important.”
The written further added that paucity of any approved, written plan reviewed by senior leaders to ensure all safety precautions are followed was the main cause of this episode. The CDC also pointed to the lack of supervision of the staff.
Action will be taken against certain personal who could have prevented this episode. The CDC will also review safety protocols for such dangerous samples as well as establish a single CDC-wide point of accountability for lab safety.
The CDC authorities were also made aware of an earlier incident in which a culture of Avian influenza or Bird Flu was accidently contaminated with H5N1 flu strain and shipped to an Agriculture Department flu lab. The lab has been since closed pending investigation.