After several exposure scares, the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention is temporarily shutting down two of its labs and suspending the shipment of biological materials between labs as a precaution.
An internal review of the CDC updated Friday showed three incidents of possible exposure to diseases in the past few months, including a cross-contamination of an animal flu and a strain of bird flu. (Via Fox News)
Viral Global News wrote, "The good news is that neither incident has reported any inadvertent exposures to the infections during both accidental events. The bad news is that both incidents have exposed potential hazards and security holes in even the most safe health facilities and labs across the globe."
The review was prompted by an anthrax scare last month. Government auditors determined failures in the laboratory airflow systems could have exposed up to 75 lab workers to live anthrax. (Via MSNBC)
At the time, one biosafety expert told USA Today, "This new incident is not an isolated incident, but rather is part of a pattern."
And the internal review seems to have borne that statement out. In addition to the exposure incidents, scientists found deadly vials of smallpox last week in an unused storage room. (Via CNN)
The CDC has shown remorse for that incident:
Dr. Thomas Frieden: "I'm disappointed by what happened, and frankly i'm angry about it. The American people depend on us 24/7 to protect them." (Via Al Jazeera)
These incidents have raised fears that the next major epidemic might occur from something like mishandled lab equipment.
We've seen it happen before. In 1977, the H1N1 virus was accidentally released from a China lab and caused a large outbreak in the East. (Via Plos One)
And even with modern medicine, disease outbreaks still remain a frightening threat. In West Africa, an ongoing Ebola outbreak has caused the death of over 500 people since February. (Via BBC)
Many are boldly speaking out asking for stricter regulations to protect the health of the general public. ThisTwitter user called the situation "a huge wake up call."
But why are these deadly samples being held in the first place? The Washingon Times reports the viruses are needed for testing to see if the illness could be a problem in the future. After the testing the samples are supposed to be destroyed.
The CDC says its labs will remain closed until the new safety procedures are implemented.