U.S. CDC tests suggest
anthrax exposures 'highly unlikely'
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[July 01, 2014] By
CHICAGO (Reuters) - The
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is
advising some employees to stop taking antibiotics to
ward off a possible anthrax infection after preliminary
tests suggest it is "highly unlikely" they were
inadvertently exposed to live anthrax bacteria earlier
this month, a spokesman said on Monday.
The CDC conducted the tests after an incident in the agency's
high-security bioterror response laboratory suggested live anthrax
may have been transferred from that lab to employees in a
lower-security facility who were not wearing proper protective gear,
raising concerns that they may have been exposed to the deadly
CDC spokesman Tom Skinner said preliminary results of environmental
testing in the lower-security labs and some lab tests by the CDC
suggest no viable bacteria left the lab.
Based on those results, most of the employees involved have been
determined "to have no increased risk of exposure."
In addition to the testing, the CDC gave the employees a
questionnaire asking how close they had come to the areas where the
anthrax was worked on. Two groups of staff were selected: One
including staff potentially exposed to aerosols in affected
laboratory space and a second group not potentially exposed but
having worked in or near affected laboratory space.
"Employees in these groups are having one-on-one appointments with
medical staff in CDCís occupational health clinic who are reviewing
all information with them and discussing the pros and cons of
continuing post-exposure prophylaxis as part of shared decision
making," Skinner said.
Some 29 individuals in the first group are being advised to continue
taking antibiotics; 33 individuals in the latter group are being
advised to stop taking them.
The CDC said a third group of employees who were initially thought
to have been exposed were determined not to require treatment.
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Dr. Harold Jaffe, the CDC's associate director for science, is
leading an internal investigation into the circumstances surrounding
this incident. He will submit a report to CDC Director Dr. Tom
Frieden in early July.
In addition, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is conducting an
Based on final results of these investigations, CDC said it will
take appropriate action in the individual laboratory, as well as any
actions indicated for all laboratories which work with dangerous
microbes at CDC, and will consider broader implications for
(Reporting by Julie Steenhuysen; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)
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