Pentagon lab mistakenly shipped live Anthrax samples in US and S Korea

  • Yashwant Raj, Hindustan Times, Washington
  • Updated: May 28, 2015 21:35 IST

A Pentagon laboratory accidentally shipped out live Anthrax spores to commercial labs in at least nine states here in the United States and one to its airbase in South Korea.

Four civilian workers and over 20 military personnel were put under observation for fear of possible exposure, which can cause serious illness sometimes leading to death.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has said it has launched an investigation, but added, it doesn’t suspect there is risk to the general people at this time.

A Pentagon spokesman, Col Steve Warren, has said the live anthrax spores shipped from Dugway Proving Ground, an Army facility in Utah, on a commercial delivery service.

And they went to labs in Maryland, New York, Texas, Wisconsin, Delaware, New Jersey, Tennessee, California and Virginia and a military lab at Osan airbase in South Korea.

The lab in Maryland reported receiving live spores, setting off alarms all over the country. The spores should have been dead before shipping, according to research protocols.

Five people died and 17 were sickened in 2001 after coming into contact with live spores mailed to newspapers and US congress offices within weeks of the 9/11 attacks.

Thought there were fears of links to terrorism, the sender was identified as a disgruntled military lab scientist who committed suicide shortly before he could be brought to trial.

There are no risks to general public this time, both the Pentagon and the CDC have said, adding, that the live samples are being securely transferred for testing at CDC labs.

CDC spokeswoman Kathy Harben has said one of the laboratories contacted the CDC to request technical consultation. It was working as part of a Pentagon effort to develop a new diagnostic test to identify biological threats. “Although an inactivated agent was expected, the lab reported they were able to grow live Bacillus anthracis,” she told AP, referring to the bacteria that cause anthrax disease.

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