Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.


Dozens may have come in contact with anthrax - US military

28 May 2015, 11:52

Washington - As many as 22 people in South Korea and four US lab workers may have been exposed to anthrax after the American military accidentally shipped out at least one live sample, officials said.

The four lab employees were undergoing medical treatment as a precaution after the military sent the sample inside the country to a commercial lab in Maryland, US officials said on Wednesday.

As many as 22 personnel may have been exposed to anthrax during a laboratory training exercise at the US Osan Air Force Base in South Korea using samples shipped from the same batch, a military statement said on Thursday.

Also Read: North Korea executes defence chief - reports

In addition to the military base in South Korea, more than a dozen other government and commercial labs in nine US states had received samples from the accidental shipment, officials said.

All of the samples had been irradiated in March last year at a military lab in Utah and were supposed to be "dead."

But on Friday, a private firm in Maryland notified authorities that its sample was still active, setting off an urgent review of all material sent out to other labs, defense officials said.

Four people at three different companies that had "worked with the live anthrax" were receiving post-exposure treatment as a precaution.

'No risk' to public

The Pentagon and health officials said the incident posed no threat to public health.

"There is no known risk to the general public, and there are no suspected or confirmed cases of anthrax infection in potentially exposed lab workers," Pentagon spokesman Colonel Steven Warren said in a statement.

The Osan Air Force Base also stressed that there was "no risk" to the public.

It said an alarm had been sounded after it was discovered that the bacteria being used in a laboratory training exercise might not have been an inert sample.

"Twenty-two personnel may have been exposed during the training event," the statement said, while adding that none had shown any exposure symptoms.

Also Read: Captain of doomed ferry sentenced to life in prison

The sample was being used in a self-contained "laboratory environment" on the base.

"Hazardous material teams immediately cordoned off the facility, decontaminated it... and destroyed the agent," it said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), backed up by the Defense Department, is investigating the mishap.

The CDC said in a statement the investigation is examining if other labs had received live samples and conducting a safety review.

However precise information about what had gone wrong and how many labs might be affected remained unclear.

The Defense Department lab in Utah, Dugway Proving Grounds, routinely transfers "dead" anthrax samples for scientific research.

Also Read: ISIS claims attacks on embassies in Libya

The lab was working on a project to detect biological threats in the field, Warren said.

As a precaution, the Defense Department stopped such shipments pending the investigation, he said.

After the Utah lab irradiated the batch of anthrax, the material was divided into nine samples that were then sent out to labs over the course of several months.

One sample was shipped to an army facility in Maryland, the Edgewood Chemical Biological Centre. That material was then shipped to different private labs, including the firm in Maryland that reported finding the live sample, officials told AFP.

The other labs in the United states receiving samples from the original batch were located in California, Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Tennessee, Texas, Wisconsin and Virginia.

Past safety lapses

The lethal anthrax disease is spread by spores and previously was used for bioweapons programs in the United States and elsewhere. Washington scrapped its bioweapons effort as part of an international treaty, which the United States ratified in 1975.

Friday's announcement comes less than a year since health officials faced severe criticism over a spate of safety lapses at CDC labs handling deadly pathogens, including anthrax.

As a result of those lapses, health officials suspended the shipment of potentially dangerous pathogens from government labs in Atlanta and the CDC shut down two of its laboratories, including one implicated in the mishandling of anthrax samples.

Investigators from the agriculture department last year found anthrax was stored in unlocked refrigerators in an unrestricted corridor, and that dangerous materials were transferred using resealable plastic bags.



Read News24’s Comments Policy

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Read more from our Users

Nigeria @ 56: Words to my green f...

A leader’s job is not to dictate, but rather to be respected, admired and be a trustee, of the land we love, with so much potential, a land which should be freer than free. Its still a long way to fufilling our destiny! Read more...

Submitted by
Isaac Asabor263
Recession: An opportunity for Nig...

The recession should be seen as an opportunity for the country’s promotion as long as we all collectively conduct ourselves in a patriotic manner, writes Isaac Asabor.  Read more...

Submitted by
Black and White

We want to imitate the whites in everything because we are ignorant of our inherent originality and content. We spend all our Naira to acquire his inventions because we so oblivious of our natural endowments that we allow him have it for free. Read more...

Submitted by
Nate Nat
Adamawa State University Mubi: A ...

ADSU integrity forum has accused the Sunday Joshua Wugira, a lawyer, of adopting unorthodox tactics by abusing his privilege by attacking the integrity of ADSU Vice Chancellor Dr. Moses Zira Zaruwa, writes a News24 reader. Read more...

Submitted by
Abdulsalam Jubril
My Country Nigeria (Part One)

Poetry by Abdulsalam Jubril.

Submitted by
Abdulsalam Jubril
Recession, dearth in leadership a...

Every leader has the opportunity to become great and making himself immortal in the lives and hearts of people for generations to come. Will Mr. President seize this opportunity?, questions Abdulsalam Jubril. Read more...