Government Labs Closed After Accidentally Exposing People to Deadly Diseases

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Photo: CDC

Bad news: The Center for Disease Control is not as on top of things as everyone would like to think. On at least two separate occasions in the past few months, CDC employees have accidentally sent dangerous bacteria and viruses to other facilities, potentially exposing their colleagues and the greater public to deadly illnesses.

In the first incident, which occurred last month, as many as 75 CDC scientists ended up experimenting on a shipment of anthrax without protective gear, because they were told the bacteria was dead (it wasn't). And, in a March incident first reported on Friday, a regular flu sample that had been contaminated with a strain of H5N1 bird flu was "inappropriately sent" to a Department of Agriculture lab. Now federal health officials are closing the CDC's anthrax and flu labs, and halting "shipments of all infectious agents" while the organization gets it together.

"These events revealed totally unacceptable behavior," said CDC chief Dr. Thomas Frieden, who also used the announcement as an opportunity to confirm that the decades-old smallpox virus found sitting in a cardboard box at the National Institute of Health last week was indeed capable of infecting people. "They should never have happened. I'm upset, I'm angry, I've lost sleep over this, and I'm working on it until the issue is resolved," he added. Guess we'll just have to take his word for it.