CDC halts shipments, shuts down laboratory over safety issues

After recent issues handling anthrax and avian flu samples, the CDC announced on Friday that all pathogen shipments have been suspended and the influenza laboratory has been shuttered.

Any shipments to and from Biosafety level 3 or 4 facilities have been halted after live anthrax was mistakenly sent to another lab, which may have resulted in the exposure of 75 employees, though none ever became ill. A lab also accidentally cross-contaminated a harmless flu sample with the H5N1 avian flu strain, the CDC recently revealed.

So leadership decided to shut down the CDC influenza laboratory while further reviewing a continued lapse in safety regulations, as a review found that many in the lab were not following required safety procedures. Another problem is that current records were inadequate, which led to the accidental shipment of a live anthrax sample.

So along with the closure of the lab and the moratorium on shipments, the CDC announced that a high-level working group has been put together to further review current safety regulations and will be in charge of deciding when transfers may begin again. An external advisory group is also being established to review lab safety.

The Bioterrorism Rapid Response and Technology Lab will remain shut down during reviews and access for some scientists will be revoked during this time. Also, those found to be involved in the recent events or found to not be following proper safety regulations will face disciplinary actions.

"These events revealed totally unacceptable behavior," CDC director Dr. Thomas Friedan said, The New York Times reports. "They should never have happened. I'm upset, I'm angry, I've lost sleep over this, and I'm working on it until the issue is resolved."

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