By J.D. Heyes
Literally hundreds of incidents involving viruses, bacteria and toxins that pose major bioterror risks to both people and agriculture have been reported to federal regulators from 2008 through 2012, according to government reports obtained and reviewed by USA Today.
More than half of the over 1,100 incidents were serious enough that laboratory workers had to have medical evaluations and/or treatment, the reports note. And in five of the incidents, regulators confirmed that lab workers had been either infected or sickened, though all recovered.
USA Today also reported:
In two other incidents, animals were inadvertently infected with contagious diseases that would have posed significant threats to livestock industries if they had spread. One case involved the infection of two animals with hog cholera, a dangerous virus eradicated from the USA in 1978. In another incident, a cow in a disease-free herd next to a research facility studying the bacteria that cause brucellosis, became infected due to practices that violated federal regulations, resulting in regulators suspending the research and ordering a $425,000 fine, records show.
However, the names of the laboratories which experienced mishaps and mistakes, as well as most information about all of the accidents, are required to be kept secret due to federal bioterrorism laws, says the U.S. Department of Agriculture — which regulates the labs and co-authored the annual laboratory incident reports in conjunction with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
As Natural News has reported in the past, the CDC especially has made an issue of lab safety and security in recent years, and incidents have increasingly come under additional scrutiny by Congress in recent weeks following a series of high-profile blunders at some very prestigious government labs. Accidents involving anthrax, bird flu and the smallpox virus have occurred.
In recent days, CDC investigators found that a rushed lab scientist was using sloppy practices when a specimen of mild bird flu had unwittingly been contaminated with a deadlier strain of the same virus before it was then shipped to other labs.
And early this summer, other scientists and researchers at the CDC might have exposed scores of staffers to live anthrax because of mistakes made in labs, though again, no one was sickened.
Meanwhile, at the National Institutes of Health, vials of deadly smallpox that had long been forgotten were found in a cold-storage room — and they were not supposed to be there.
‘More than 200 incidents are reported each year’
As USA Today reported, the new lab incident information indicates that “mishaps occur regularly at the more than 1,000 labs operated by 324 government, university and private organizations across the country that are registered with the Federal Select Agent Program.” This is a program that is jointly run by the USDA and CDC, which are required by law to submit short reports annually with all incident data to lawmakers.
The paper further noted:
The reports, released by CDC in response to a request from USA TODAY, contain few details beyond a count of incidents by categories, such as incidents involving bites or scratches from infected animals, needle sticks, failures of personal protection equipment, spills or specimen packages that temporarily went missing after they were shipped. No thefts were reported.
Complete data for all incidents reported in 2013 are not yet available because they are not finalized, CDC told the paper. The prior year, lab regulators said they took in 247 reports of potential releases of dangerous pathogens. They received the same number of reports the year before as well. In 2010, there were 275 reported incidents, 243 in 2009 and 116 in 2008.
“More than 200 incidents of loss or release of bioweapons agents from U.S. laboratories are reported each year. This works out to more than four per week,” Richard Ebright, a biosafety expert at Rutgers University in New Jersey who testified before Congress last month at a hearing about CDC’s lab mistakes, told the paper.
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