Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Tom Frieden has confirmed a health agency report, claiming the US government has mishandled dangerous pathogens in their disease labs several times in the past decade.
Amongst the various dangerous pathogens is the infectious H5N1 avian flu, commonly known as “bird-flu”. Researchers in a high-level bio-security laboratory failed to deactivate the bacteria, before shipping it off to other facilities.
In response to the high-security risks, the CDC has closed both of the labs involved in the errors. The CDC has also temporarily banned all high-level laboratories from shipping bacteria from the facility to others.
CDC officials have said nobody from the two facilities has fallen ill and there is no signs of anyone being contaminated with the different diseases tested in the labs, but the organisation will continue to investigate shortcomings.
In 2001 researchers sent an infection strain of Brucella to other laboratories, mistaking it for the vaccine version. This only came to light in 2009, when researchers were able to differentiate between the two strains.
In 2006, two cases were reported to the CDC, including their own bio-terror lab, which delivered active Anthrax DNA to other laboratories, after the bio-terror lab claimed it had been deactivated.
The other case, another CDC lab contained samples of botulism bacteria. The botulism illness is quite rare and normally hits children under the age of three the worst, although the death toll has lowered substantially in the past few decades.
The CDC will begin working on better organisation in their laboratories and other facilities, alongside closer inspection of facilities to see that they adhere to the proper laws and regulations.
This comes just days after a government scientist in Washington found live-vials of smallpox. The six frozen vials were found in a cardboard box, this is the first untreated small-pox since the 1980s, but officials say nobody has taken ill.