CDC Closes Labs After Exposing Employees to Live Anthrax and Bird Flu

The Center for Disease Control is closing its anthrax and flu labs after two accidents that could have exposed employees and the public to disease. "Shipments of all infectious agents" are going to be halted, too. The screw-ups, one of which was just reported today, weren't minor.

Last month, 75 CDC employees were possibly exposed to live anthrax bacteria. They handled anthrax samples without protective gear because they thought the bacteria was dead. CDC director Dr. Thomas Frieden explained to The New York Times that "when you work with [anthrax] day in and day out, you can get a little careless. The culture of safety needs to improve at some C.D.C. laboratories."

Another accident, just reported today, involved CDC employees accidentally contaminating a normal flu sample with H5N1 bird flu and sending it to the Department of Agriculture. As an added bonus, last week CDC employees found leftover smallpox virus samples from the 1950s in a closet.

Dr. Frieden told the Times, "These events revealed totally unacceptable behavior. They should never have happened."

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