As many as 75 scientists exposed to anthrax bacteria, CDC says

BY Ariel Min  June 19, 2014 at 4:22 PM EST
A photomicrograph of anthrax bacteria. Image by CDC

A photomicrograph of anthrax bacteria. Image by CDC

The Centers for Disease Control reported Thursday that as many as 75 scientists may have been exposed to live anthrax bacteria. While none of the people who were exposed have shown signs of infection, they’re being offered treatment.

The exposure may have happened when the researchers working in a high-level biosecurity lab at the CDC failed to follow proper procedures to inactivate the bacteria, NBC News reports.

A statement from the CDC offers more context:

The potentially infectious samples were moved and used for experimentation in three CDC Roybal campus laboratories not equipped to handle live B. anthracis. Workers, believing the samples were inactivated, were not wearing adequate personal protective equipment while handling the material.

Lab safety investigators also determined that, sometime between June 6 and June 13, procedures used in two of the three labs may have aerosolized the spores. Environmental sampling was done, lab and hallway areas were decontaminated and laboratories will be re-opened when safe to operate.

CDC spokesman Tom Skinner said that the risk of infection is “very low” in this particular situation. However, he included that “out of an abundance of caution, CDC is taking aggressive steps to protect the health of all involved, including protective courses of antibiotics for potentially exposed staff.”

The CDC also stated that the public is not in danger of being exposed to the anthrax as a result of this incident.