US labs made dangerous pathogen transport errors

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Addis Ababa, 13 July 2014 (WIC) - US government infectious disease labs mishandled dangerous pathogens five times in the last decade, according to a health agency report.

This year alone, workers mishandled samples of anthrax and the highly-infectious H5N1 avian flu. In response, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) closed the two labs involved.

The agency has also temporarily barred high-security labs from transporting dangerous pathogens.

CDC Director Thomas Frieden "we need to look at our culture of safety throughout all of our laboratories’.

There have been no reported infections from previous cases, and no-one potentially exposed to anthrax has shown signs of illness, CDC officials said.

"These events should never have happened," CDC Director Tom Frieden told reporters on Friday.

"I'm disappointed, and frankly I'm angry about it," he said, adding later he was "astonished that this could have happened here".

The incidents were listed in a report on a potential anthrax exposure in June, which occurred when researchers in a high-level bio-security laboratory failed to follow proper procedures and did not deactivate the bacteria.

The samples were then moved to a lower-security lab in the agency's Atlanta campus.

"This is not the first time an event of this nature has occurred at CDC, nor the first time it occurred from the [bio-terror response] laboratory," the report said. (BBC)

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