US Military Ships Live Anthrax to Labs in Nine States
TEHRAN (Tasnim) – The US military mistakenly sent live anthrax bacteria to laboratories in nine US states and a US air base in South Korea, after apparently failing to properly inactivate the bacteria last year, US officials said.
The Pentagon said there was no known suspected infection or risk to the public. But four US civilians have been started on preventive measures called post-exposure prophylaxis, which usually includes the anthrax vaccine, antibiotics or both.
Twenty-two personnel at the base in South Korea were also given precautionary medical measures although none have shown sign of exposure, the US military said, according to a Reuters report.
The four in the United States face "minimal" risk, said Jason McDonald, a spokesman for the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which has begun an investigation of the incident. They had been "doing procedures that sent the agent into the air," he said.
When anthrax becomes airborne, it can cause a deadly illness called inhalation anthrax. That occurred in 2001, when anthrax sent through the US mail to government and media targets killed five people.
The anthrax, which was initially sent from a Utah military lab, was meant to be shipped in an inactive state as part of efforts to develop a field-based test to identify biological threats, the Pentagon said.
"Out of an abundance of caution, (the Defense Department) has stopped the shipment of this material from its labs pending completion of the investigation," said Pentagon spokesman Colonel Steve Warren.
The anthrax was sent to laboratories in Maryland, Texas, Wisconsin, Delaware, New Jersey, Tennessee, New York, California and Virginia, officials said.
The Maryland laboratory alerted the CDC late on Friday that it had a live sample and by midday on Saturday, the laboratories were notified, the US official said.
The four civilians receiving post-exposure prophylaxis are in Delaware, Texas and Wisconsin. "Workers who were not in the same area at the same time are not at risk," the CDC's McDonald said.
The sample sent to South Korea was subsequently destroyed, the Pentagon and the US military there said.
A US emergency team responded to destroy the sample on Wednesday at the US base after what was expected to be an inactive training sample was thought to be live bacteria, the US military in South Korea said.
Precautionary medical measures were given to 22 personnel who may have been exposed during the training at the base about 35 km (20 miles) south of Seoul and none of them have shown any sign of exposure, it said.