Read below and know in your hearts it can't happen here
WASHINGTON — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Wednesday it is investigating what the Pentagon called an inadvertent shipment of live anthrax spores from an Army facility in Utah to government and commercial laboratories in as many as nine states, as well as one overseas, that expected to receive dead spores.
"At this time we do not suspect any risk to the general public," CDC spokeswoman Kathy Harben said.
A Pentagon spokesman, Col. Steve Warren, said the suspected live anthrax samples were shipped from Dugway Proving Ground using a commercial delivery service.
Warren said the government has confirmed one recipient, a laboratory in Maryland, received live spores. The CDC has asked for preventative treatment for four workers who were in close proximity to the live samples.
It is suspected but not yet confirmed that anthrax sent to labs in as many as eight other states also contained live spores, Warren said.
Later, Warren said an anthrax sample from the same batch at Dugway also was sent to a U.S. military laboratory at Osan Air Base in South Korea. No personnel there have shown signs of exposure, he said, and the sample was destroyed.
"There is no known risk to the general public, and there are no suspected or confirmed cases of anthrax infection in potentially exposed lab workers," Warren said.
The anthrax samples were shipped from Dugway to government and commercial labs in Texas, Maryland, Wisconsin, Delaware, New Jersey, Tennessee, New York, California and Virginia. The Defense Department, acting "out of an abundance of caution," has halted "the shipment of this material from its labs pending completion of the investigation," Warren said.
There is no known risk to the general public, and there are no suspected or confirmed cases of anthrax infection in potentially exposed lab workers.–Col. Steve Warren, U.S. Pentagon
In February, the Dugway facility debuted its $39 million biological weapons testing chamber, built following a 2002 directive upping biological warfare readiness. The chamber is the largest of its kind, designed to test how well other biological agent detectors function, and is capable of precision testing under a variety of conditions.
At the February ribbon cutting, Dugway's commander, Col. Ronald Fizer, said it is impossible to overestimate the value of the chamber, which can test biological agents such as anthrax, plague or ricin.
"It is a huge deal," he said. "We have not had the ability to evaluate these systems in a live environment before. This allows us to have a high degree of confidence in our systems."
Contact with anthrax spores can cause severe illness.
Fizer said Wednesday he is concerned about the error, especially considering safety protocols are in place to prevent it from happening. He said the information he could release is limited while the federal government investigates.
"Until their investigation is complete, I won't be able to give you any answers on exactly how it happened," Fizer said.
The colonel said he couldn't confirm which safety measures failed to prevent the shipment from Dugway Proving Ground, if any.
"They will confirm whether there was a violation of protocol in sending these out, or in fact there's something else that happened," he said.
Fizer echoed Warren's statement that no lab workers have been infected as a result of the anthrax shipment and that the current risk is minimal.