U.S. officials are investigating a wide spread accidental shipment of live anthrax to laboratories in 11 different states, as well as South Korea and Australia. On Friday, the Department of Defense said that 24 laboratories, including those in South Korea and Australia, received suspicious anthrax samples dating back to 2008. As a result, a comprehensive review of the army’s Dugway Proving Ground in Utah is underway.
Dugway is located in an isolated stretch of the Utah desert, and has been involved in the testing of chemical weapons since it opened in 1942. A commercial lab in Maryland claims that a shipment it received last week from Dugway contained a live sample of anthrax.
The Pentagon has acknowledged other university and commercial laboratories received potentially live anthrax samples from a batch irradiated last March. The investigation has uncovered another batch of live anthrax that was supposed to have been made inactive in 2008, which is when the Army mistakenly sent live anthrax to a lab in Australia.
U.S. officials are still trying to determine where the samples were sent, but insist that there is no threat to public health. According to the Centers for Disease Control, a total of four workers in labs in Texas, Delaware, and Wisconsin have been put on antibiotics as a precautionary measure. The Pentagon has also said 22 military and civilian personnel have been placed under preventative treatment at the base in Osan, South Korea.
U.S. government labs were criticized last year because of reports of poor management of deadly bacteria. The CDC has now shut down two of its labs, while government labs in Atlanta have suspended the shipment of any harmful pathogens.