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Scientist delayed reporting bird flu cross-contamination in lab incident, CDC finds

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Atlanta – An investigation into a bird flu incident found that a laboratory scientist hurried through work and did not follow best practices, leading to contamination of samples and inadvertent shipment of bird flu, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Aug. 15 report details the internal investigation of contaminated bird flu shipped to a U.S. Department of Agriculture poultry research lab and another CDC lab. A culture of mild bird flu was inadvertently cross-contaminated with dangerous bird flu in January at the CDC influenza lab.

After tested chickens died, the USDA lab on May 23 notified CDC of the contamination, the report states. The CDC lab confirmed the contamination but did not inform appropriate supervisors until July 9.

The delay in reporting was primarily due to “a lack of sound professional judgment” and “insufficient or ambiguous” reporting requirements for the most dangerous pathogens, according to the report.

CDC is investigating lab safety after up to 84 workers were exposed to anthrax in June when samples were sent from one CDC lab to other labs.