CDC stops shipping biological materials; closes 2 labs after incidents

Atlanta – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced it has immediately stopped shipment of high-hazard biological materials – pending review from an advisory committee – after incidents of anthrax exposure and shipment of bird flu.

In a report released July 11, CDC reviewed a June incident in which live samples of anthrax were unintentionally sent to three CDC laboratories, potentially exposing as many as 84 workers. The report concludes the scientists failed to follow an approved plan that met all safety requirements. It also found a lack of standard operating procedures to document when biological agents are properly inactivated and a lack of adequate laboratory oversight of scientists.

None of the potentially exposed staff has become ill with anthrax, CDC said. The lab in which the anthrax samples originated has been closed since June 16. Beyond the anthrax incident, the report stated that CDC is aware of four other incidents in the last decade involving dangerous pathogens – including botulism bacteria and bird flu – being sent to other labs.

In March, a strain of bird flu was shipped from an influenza laboratory to a U.S. Department of Agriculture laboratory. That CDC influenza laboratory is closed and will not reopen until adequate improvements are made, CDC said.