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2008: Search warrants show FBI suspicion in anthrax case

FBI agents focused on Steven Hatfill after the deadly 2001 anthrax attacks because he had access to the building where anthrax was stored and described in an unpublished novel how an attack could take place, according to search warrants released on Tuesday by the U.S. District Court in Washington.

The FBI investigated Hatfill for years, but he was never charged. The Justice Department agreed in June to pay him $5.85 million to settle his lawsuit claiming government officials had violated his privacy rights.

The FBI and Justice Department said in August that Army scientist Bruce Ivins, who killed himself in July, was solely responsible for mailing the anthrax-laced letters that killed five people and sickened 17 shortly after the September 11 attacks.

Pentagon accidentally shipped live anthrax to Canada and Australia in addition to the US

Two defense officials today confirmed that in addition to accidentally sending live samples of anthrax to 28 government and private facilities across the US and army base in South Korea, the Pentagon also shipped the deadly spores to three laboratories in Canada. Investigations into anthrax shipments spurred by the recent discovery of the spores have shown that the US military also sent live samples to Australia in 2008, meaning that suspected live anthrax has now been sent by the Pentagon into three countries, 12 US states, and the District of Columbia.

The anthrax, which was sent from an Army lab at Dugway Proving Ground in Utah, was supposed to have been rendered inactive by Department of Defense scientists before being shipped for research purposes. A senior Defense Department official told USA Today that so far, no-one has been confirmed as infected by the still-alive samples, but BBC News reports that at least four US civilians and 22 military personnel from South Korea's Osan air base are receiving preventative treatment.

Federal health officials closed the flu and anthrax laboratories at the CDC and halted shipments of all infectious agents from the agency's highest-security labs

If the CDC had multiple accidents that could, in theory, have killed staff members and people outside, there will undoubtedly be calls for stricter controls on other university, military, and private laboratories that handle pathogens.

In the second accident, disclosed Friday, a CDC lab accidentally contaminated a relatively benign flu sample with a dangerous H5N1 bird flu strain that has infected 650 people since 2003, killing 386 of them. Fortunately, an Agriculture Department laboratory realized the strain was more dangerous than expected and alerted the CDC.

The first accident occurred last month. As many as 75 CDC employees may have been exposed to live anthrax bacteria after potentially infectious samples were sent to laboratories unequipped to handle them. Workers who were not wearing protective gear ended up moving and experimenting with samples of the highly infectious bacteria that were supposed to have been deactivated, the agency said.

In addition to those mistakes, Frieden also said Friday that two of six vials of smallpox recently found stored in a National Institutes of Health laboratory since 1954 contained live virus capable of infecting people.

All the samples will be destroyed as soon as the genomes of the virus in them can be sequenced. The NIH will scour freezers and storerooms for more dangerous material, he said. “These events revealed totally unacceptable behavior.

Frieden said that the accidents had implications for labs beyond his agency, arguing that the world needs to reduce to absolute minimums the number of labs handling dangerous agents, the number of staff involved, and the number of agents circulating.

Scientists doing the most controversial work — efforts to make pathogens more lethal or more transmissible — say the research helps predict mutations that might arise in nature so vaccines can be designed. But other scientists feel that creating superstrains is unacceptably dangerous because lab accidents are more common than is acknowledged, as Frieden's statement indicated.

CDC Lab Incident: Anthrax

CDC Director Tom Frieden has issued a moratorium on the transfer of any infectious agents (active or inactivated specimens) from any of its biosafety level 3 (BSL-3) or BSL-4 laboratories to any other facility, inside or outside of CDC. This moratorium will remain in place pending review by a CDC laboratory advisory committee.

Pentagon accidentally sent live anthrax samples to labs via FedEx

Dangerous bacteria sent to labs in nine states and one in South Korea.

The Pentagon this week said that it accidentally sent live anthrax samples to government and private laboratories in at least nine states, and to a US military base in South Korea. As the Associated Press reports, the samples originated from a Department of Defense lab in Utah, which was supposed to send out killed samples. The labs were not equipped to handle the live spores they received instead, though military officials say there is no indication that the potentially fatal bacteria poses a broader health risk, and exposed workers are undergoing treatment.

US anthrax scare widens to 51 labs in 17 states

More than 50 labs in 17 US states and three foreign countries have been mailed samples of live anthrax, Pentagon officials have said.

The announcement on Wednesday doubled the number of incidents in the US. A smaller number of shipments were revealed last week. Staff members at some of the labs have been treated for anthrax exposure as a precaution, but no-one has fallen ill.

The Pentagon has maintained there is no risk to the general public.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is leading the investigation into the incidents.

US defence official Robert Work told reporters that the number of affected laboratories is expected to rise.

The U.S. Military's Anthrax Foul-Up Is An Embarrassing Wakeup Call

The U.S. military recently shipped live anthrax spores to eighteen labs in nine states and South Korea, according to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention and the Pentagon. This is not an immediate health threat. But it is a huge embarrassment that illustrates grave flaws in the U.S.'s bioterrorism preparedness safety system.

Anthrax specimens were inadvertently shipped from the Army’s Dugway Proving Ground, in Utah, to California, Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin, and to South Korea. "At least 18 labs in nine states received sample kits containing 23 marked specimens and 2 controls," said CDC spokesman Jason McDonald. "One of the controls was labeled ‘antigen 1.’ It was, in fact, live anthrax spores. Notably, samples were reportedly sent by a commercial carrier to private and commercial labs involved in field-testing a diagnostic test, and were to be relayed to others. A private lab in Maryland expected an inactivated agent, but found they were able to grow live anthrax bacteria, prompting the initial report to the CDC. Here is what we can learn.

Second investigation details additional lapses at CDC lab after anthrax incident

NEW YORK, N.Y. - A second investigation has detailed additional safety problems at federal health laboratories in Atlanta, including the use of expired disinfectants and the transfer of dangerous germs in Ziploc bags.

The new findings were disclosed Monday in a congressional committee's summary of a U.S. Department of Agriculture report on the CDC anthrax incident.

The USDA report focuses on an incident last month at a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lab that handles bioterrorism agents. The lab was supposed to completely kill anthrax samples before sending them to two other CDC labs. But the higher-security lab did not completely sterilize the bacteria.

Dozens of CDC workers were potentially exposed to dangerous anthrax bacteria. No one got sick, but a CDC internal investigation report released last week found serious safety lapses, including use of unapproved sterilization techniques and use of a potent anthrax in an experiment that didn't require that germ to be used.

Separate from the CDC probe, investigators from the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services came to the CDC to look into what happened.

A USDA spokeswoman said her agency does not release its reports to the public. The CDC did not immediately release the report, either. But the findings were summarized in a report released by a U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee, which is holding a hearing Wednesday on recent reports of CDC lab problems.

According to the congressional memo, the USDA found: —Disinfectants used for decontamination of vials and bags had expired, and CDC staff couldn't remember if they used the expired products in cleaning up after the anthrax incident.

—At least some of the lab workers who were potentially exposed were not examined until five days later.

—Security measures within the lab building were flawed. Anthrax was stored in unlocked refrigerators in an unrestricted hallway. The key to one refrigerator sat in its lock.

—Germ materials were transferred between labs in two Ziploc bags, failing to meet containment guidelines. A CDC spokesman said the agency is "carefully scrutinizing" the report.

Anthrax: Pentagon accidentally sent bioweapon to as many as nine states

The Pentagon has conceded it accidentally shipped samples of a live bioweapon across nine states and to a US air base in South Korea.

In an extraordinary admission on Wednesday, the Pentagon revealed what it called an “inadvertent transfer of samples containing live Bacillus anthracis”, or anthrax, took place at an unspecified time from a US Defense Department laboratory in Dugway, Utah.

Nine unspecified states received samples of the bioweapon, which can be fatal if untreated. One sample was also sent to Osan air base in Pyeongtaek, about 65km south of Seoul.

Colonel Steve Warren, the acting Pentagon press secretary, told reporters on Wednesday that there was “no known risk to the general public” and lab workers possibly exposed to the bioagent have not manifested any indications of infection.

The Disturbing Anthrax Accident

It is distressing that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which is supposedly expert at handling extremely dangerous pathogens, was so sloppy this month that it potentially exposed more than 80 people at its laboratories in Atlanta to deadly anthrax spores. The incident carries a stark warning that even the best laboratories can slip up, with potentially catastrophic consequences should they be working, as some are, with germs that can spread a lot more readily than anthrax.

The accident occurred when the Bioterror Rapid Response and Advanced Technology Laboratory, one of the more secure at the C.D.C., failed to inactivate anthrax bacteria before sending them to three less-secure laboratories for experiments on how to detect dangerous pathogens. The scientists in those laboratories, believing the samples were harmless, agitated the test tubes and may have released anthrax spores into the air. The failure was detected on June 13, seemingly by accident. By that time dozens of people who passed through the laboratories had been potentially exposed.

Pentagon: Live anthrax inadvertently distributed by Army laboratory

An Army laboratory in Utah inadvertently distributed live samples of anthrax to facilities in nine states, prompting an ongoing effort to recover them and and another sample sent to a U.S. military base in South Korea, Pentagon officials said Thursday.

The first live sample discovered was shipped from Dugway Proving Ground in Utah to an undisclosed facility in Maryland and reported by workers there May 22. Live samples from that same batch — labeled “AG1” — were sent to laboratories in eight other states, and could have been distributed from there to additional facilities run by the government or private companies, according to a defense official who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the incident.

The Pentagon also said that one sample of anthrax was sent to the Joint United States Forces Korea Portal and Integrated Threat Recognition Program at Osan Air Base. It did not clarify whether that same was live.

CDC: Head of anthrax lab has resigned following safety incident

NEW YORK – The head of the government lab that potentially exposed workers to live anthrax has resigned, an agency spokesman said Wednesday.

Michael Farrell was head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lab since 2009. He submitted his resignation Tuesday, the spokesman said.

Farrell declined interview requests, said the spokesman, Tom Skinner.

Biohazard scare targets Toronto

A biohazard scare caused chaos in Toronto's downtown yesterday and disrupted work in Ontario government offices. It was the fourth such incident in Canada in less than two months.

This latest false alarm occurred on a particularly large and troublesome scale: It left Torontonians with snarled traffic, preoccupied hundreds of emergency personnel and forced the removal of nearly 4,000 employees from three government buildings.

It was all because of three envelopes containing a mysterious granular substance and one anonymous note said to have posed the question: "How do you like anthrax?"

The incident comes on the heels of episodes in Victoria, Ottawa and Toronto at the end of January, which also involved strange packages bearing the threat of deadly biological substances.

We got preliminary results and there are no bacterial substances in the envelopes," Dr. Shahin said late in the afternoon. Viral substances were also ruled out, she said.

Last night, public-health officials contacted everyone who was originally quarantined to allay their fears.
In key anthrax test, scientist just threw out test tube showing sample was alive

It was a critical test to ensure anthrax bacteria had been thoroughly killed so the samples could be safely shipped to researchers at other labs. Yet the Army scientist simply threw out one test tube that showed some of the potentially dangerous anthrax was still alive, and issued “death certificates” for the rest of the batch that was then sent on to another lab, records obtained by USA TODAY show.

Some of the anthrax bacteria in the other test tubes was also still alive, the receiving lab later discovered.

The records, released under the federal Freedom of Information Act, reveal new details of how a scientist at the Army’s Dugway Proving Ground badly misjudged the effectiveness of one of the lab’s three kill procedures in 2007 — long before the discovery in May that the massive biodefense complex in Utah had been mistakenly shipping live anthrax to dozens of unsuspecting labs in the USA and abroad for more than a decade.

bloomberg: Deleted

book: 2008: Search warrants show FBI suspicion in anthrax case

canada: Pentagon accidentally shipped live anthrax to Canada and Australia in addition to the US

cdc labs closure: Federal health officials closed the flu and anthrax laboratories at the CDC and halted shipments of all infectious agents from the agency's highest-security labs

cdc moratorium: CDC Lab Incident: Anthrax

fedex anthrax: Pentagon accidentally sent live anthrax samples to labs via FedEx

fifty one labs: US anthrax scare widens to 51 labs in 17 states

forbes: The U.S. Military's Anthrax Foul-Up Is An Embarrassing Wakeup Call

more lapses: Second investigation details additional lapses at CDC lab after anthrax incident

nine labs: Anthrax: Pentagon accidentally sent bioweapon to as many as nine states

nyt: The Disturbing Anthrax Accident

pentagon: Pentagon: Live anthrax inadvertently distributed by Army laboratory

resigned: CDC: Head of anthrax lab has resigned following safety incident

toronto: Biohazard scare targets Toronto

trashed: In key anthrax test, scientist just threw out test tube showing sample was alive