The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned the public on Thursday that up to 75 members of its Atlanta staff may have been accidentally exposed to live anthrax bacteria.
According to their statement, several samples of anthrax were transported to low-security laboratories in Atlanta without being properly treated. Believing the samples to be safe, researchers handled the still-active anthrax without taking adequate precautions. (Via WWBT)
The CDC discovered the anthrax on June 13, and the agency immediately put the exposed workers on protective antibiotics. Officials say the risk of infection is very low, and "other CDC staff, family members, and the general public are not at risk of exposure."
A lethal airborne disease, anthrax is infamous for its attempted use as a biological weapon. In 2001, anthrax letter bombs infected 22 people with the disease shortly after the 9/11 attacks. Five people were killed and tens of thousands put at risk of exposure during that attack. (Via NBC)
A chemical weapons expert told CNN this outbreak shouldn't be nearly as dangerous.
"We're assuming that, since this was at the CDC, they know the nature of the strain and they know that it could be susceptible to antibiotic treatment, so that's all good news."
The CDC is currently conducting an internal review to find out what went wrong. The agency says it will take disciplinary action if necessary if the safety protocols for handling anthrax weren't followed.