The Pentagon is under investigation by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for potentially mishandling deadly organisms, including plague bacteria and encephalitis. Officials claim the deadly organisms were improperly mislabeled, stored, and even shipped without proper precautions in place.
CDC investigators are looking into the Defense Department Laboratories’ potential mishandling of dangerous and deadly organisms, such as the plague and encephalitis, leading to a moratorium on the production, handling, and shipping of such organisms from at least nine labs, according to Time Magazine.
Initially, the Defense Department did not reveal which toxins were improperly handled. Later, when the details revealed the potential mishandling of the plague and encephalitis, the CDC questioned their lack of transparency on such a dangerous matter. Peter Cook, the Pentagon Press Secretary, stated that they attempted to be as forthcoming as possible with the information they had. However, they wanted to do so “without alarming the public.”
The CDC released a statement on the mishandling of the plague and encephalitis, as well as other harmful toxins and bacteria, stating that they do not feel there is risk of the organisms posing any danger to the general population.
“CDC has identified a number of transfers of concern involving multiple organisms. At this time, there is nothing to suggest risk to the health of workers or the general public.”
According to USA Today, the CDC has refused to speak openly regarding the investigation but advised that they are tracking the path of the shipments to identify any safety risks along the way.
“[The CDC is] working to track shipments and confirm the safety of those working with these materials.”
A regular inspection of the Edgewood Chemical Biological Center revealed a mislabeling of vials of plague specimens, which escalated the investigation to reach out to other labs within the network. Their findings revealed the lack of consistency and care in handling the specimens.
“The CDC raised questions about the labeling of some material listed within the catalog, including a strain of Bacillus anthracis and derivatives of equine encephalitis viruses, and consequently, whether this material was properly handled and shipped by the Department.”
Due to the mishandling of the deadly organisms, an independent review of the military’s bio-safety policies are being conducted to ensure the mistake does not happen again. Review of the issue will be ongoing until the CDC is satisfied the situation is under control.
[Photo By USAF/Getty Images Hulton Archive]