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Number of lab workers possibly exposed to anthrax increased to 84, CDC says

By Kyle Johnson,

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed on Friday that an additional nine lab workers may have been exposed to anthrax, bringing the total up to 84.

As previously reported, on Thursday, the federal agency publicly announced that 75 lab workers might have been exposed to anthrax after failing to follow proper safety guidelines. The employees didn't realize they had a live sample of the bacteria and didn't wear the proper protective gear.

The problem began when the CDC's Bioterror Rapid Response and Advanced Technology lab inadvertently shipped live anthrax instead of harmless samples to other labs, reports Reuters.

The samples were sent to the lower-security labs as scientists are looking to devise a method to more quickly identify anthrax. "If there is a bioterrorism incident, we could more quickly identify yes or no, this sample has anthrax," said Dr. Paul Meechan, the CDC's environmental health and safety compliance director.

While testing a new method to render anthrax harmless, involving chemicals and not radiation, the lab pulled out the living samples, believing them to be dead. After waiting a day, "They took a look at the plate, and they didn't see any new growth. At that point, they assumed the material was safe."

At the moment about 27 lab workers were given the vaccine, while 20 potentially infected workers were on doxycycline. Another 32 lab workers were being given ciprofloxacin.

 
 

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