A Utah army lab inadvertently distributed samples of live anthrax to facilities in nine states and another sample to a US military base in South Korea. There is an effort to recover these samples as fast as possible.
The first sample was found in an undisclosed Maryland facility. It was reported by workers at the facility on May 22 and was destroyed in accordance with appropriate protocols according to Army Col. Steve Warren, a spokesperson for the Pentagon. The samples at some of the other facilities may have been sent to additional facilities so tracking down every sample may be difficult.
“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. Out of an abundance of caution, [the Defense Department] has stopped the shipment of this material from its labs pending completion of the investigation.” Warren also said
The Department of Defense is working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to prevent any exposure and to find out how they were shipped to facilities around the US. So far there are no known cases of infection in any potentially exposed workers in the facilities where the samples were sent and the Department of Defense is working hard to ensure this doesn’t happen. Under normal protocol, samples are killed before being shipped to other labs so it is unclear what went wrong when these samples were shipped.
The samples were shipped out of Dugway Proving Grounds who have stopped all shipments at this time. Dugway Proving Grounds is in an area 85 miles outside of Salt Lake City. Samples of anthrax are held there for research purposes as anthrax is one of the most commonly used pathogens in biological warfare. An example of its use is the 2001 anthrax attacks where letters containing anthrax spores were mailed to US senators and news media offices. 22 people, including mail carriers, were exposed to anthrax and five people died.
This is not the first time an incident like this has happened at the Dugway Proving Grounds. There was a 2011 lockdown caused by the misplacement of a small amount of nerve agent. Fortunately, there was no exposure to it and the lab was reopened quickly.
The other samples were sent to facilities in Texas, Wisconsin, Delaware, New Jersey, Tennessee, California, Virginia and New York.