75 Scientists Possibly Exposed to Live Anthrax in Government Labs

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
June 19 2014 8:06 PM

75 Scientists Possibly Exposed to Live Anthrax in Government Labs

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The CDC says as many as 75scientists may have been exposed to live anthrax.

Photo by FRANK PERRY/AFP/Getty Images

As many as 75 scientists working in government labs in Atlanta may have been exposed to live anthrax, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced on Thursday. The scientists may have been exposed to the deadly toxin after researchers at a biosecurity lab failed to properly inactivate samples of the substance which were then transferred to other CDC labs that weren’t capable of handling live anthrax, Reuters reports.

The potential exposure was discovered more than a month ago and the CDC immediately began locating people that may have come into contact with the live anthrax. "No employee has shown any symptoms of anthrax illness," Dr Paul Meechan, director of the environmental health and safety compliance office at the CDC told Reuters. “Meechan said the normal incubation period can take up to five to seven days, though there are documented cases of the illness occurring some 60 days after exposure.”

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Here’s more from Reuters:

Meechan said as many as seven researchers may have come into direct contact with the live anthrax. But the agency is casting as wide a net as possible to make sure all employees at the agency who may have walked into any of the labs at risk are being offered treatment. Around 75 individuals are being offered a 60-day course of treatment with the antibiotic ciprofloxacin as well as an injection with an anthrax vaccine... Meechan said it is too early to determine whether the transfer was accidental or intentional.

Elliot Hannon is a writer in Washington, D.C. Follow him on Twitter.

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