Most folks wouldn’t be too thrilled to receive a shipment of live anthrax in the mail. But that seemingly elementary truism didn’t stop the U.S. military from springing parcels of the deadly bacteria on unsuspecting labs hither and yon. As reported by Inquisitr, military officials have acknowledged a spate of accidental anthrax deliveries to numerous labs around the United States. As public concern mounts, it is gradually coming to light that some shipments of the lethal pathogen may have been shipped abroad as well.
The New Zealand Herald reports that the Pentagon has acknowledged accidentally sending live anthrax samples to labs in Australia in 2008. Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop commented publicly on the revelation, stating that the situation would not harm relations between the Australia and the U.S.
“We’re assured by the U.S. military there is no risk to public health,” Bishop said in remarks published by the New Zealand Herald. “We’re taking part in the investigation and I’m pleased it is under way.”
According to Sky News, the U.S. government has now acknowledged sending live anthrax to a total of 24 labs in 11 states, as well as shipments made to South Korea and Australia. The samples all appear to have emanated from Dugway Proving Ground in Utah. Reports indicate that Dugway was tasked with sending inactive samples to labs for study, instead dispersing amounts of live samples of the hazardous substance.
The Center for Disease Control, which is actively involved in tracking the results and consequences of the military’s biohazard blunders, has noted that typical methods used to convert live anthrax into inactive specimens is not always effective, even with necessary procedures and precautions.
The Pentagon is preparing to launch an in-depth investigation into the military’s mishandling of anthrax, naming Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work as the head of the initiative. USA Today notes that Work has directed Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Frank Kendall to lead a review of procedures, processes, and protocols associated with how the Department of Defense handles anthrax.
Workers at several of the labs where live samples were received are now receiving medical attention and monitoring as a precautionary measure. At present, the U.S. military denies any imminent threat to public health as a result of the accidental shipments of anthrax. But a CDC email obtained by USA Today indicates that the scope of the present anthrax controversy could ultimately prove larger than previously anticipated.
[Photo by Anthrax Vaccine Immunization Program/Getty Images]