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More Safety Glitches Found at CDC Lab

Expired disinfectants may have been used to clean up after an anthrax mishap at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, federal officials say. And dangerous germs were transported by Ziploc bags.

Expired disinfectants may have been used to clean up after an anthrax mishap at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, federal officials say. File|Patch
Expired disinfectants may have been used to clean up after an anthrax mishap at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, federal officials say. File|Patch

Just a month after employees at the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were inadvertently exposed to live anthrax bacteria comes the revelation of new safety problems at the federal health laboratories in Atlanta.

The newest findings were disclosed Monday in a U.S. Department of Agriculture report on the anthrax incident in June also says that employees used expired disinfectants and transferred dangerous germs via Ziploc bags, reports the Associated Press.

The USDA report focuses on the problem last month, when the CDC came under scrutiny as about 75 workers were notified they may have been accidentally exposed to anthrax bacteria because of a safety problem in a bioterrorism lab, WSB TV reported citing an Associated Press story. The staff members were monitored or given antibiotics as a precaution against exposure to the disease-causing bacteria.

Live anthrax bacteria were found on some materials being gathered for disposal, the AP says. There was no risk of exposure for other CDC staff, family members or the general public, authorities said. 

According to a memo, the USDA found:

  • Disinfectants used for decontamination of vials and bags had expired, and CDC employees couldn't remember if they used the expired products to clean up after the anthrax incident.
  • Some of the lab workers who were potentially exposed were not examined until five days later.
  • Security measures within the lab building were flawed. Anthrax was stored in unlocked refrigerators in an unrestricted hallway. The key to one refrigerator sat in its lock.
  • Germ materials were transferred between labs in two Ziploc bags, failing to meet containment guidelines.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials plan to review safety protocol with all employees. Because the agency’s own protocols were not followed, disciplinary action will be taken if warranted, officials said.

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