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Sunday, September 28, 2014

New lab incidents fuel fear, safety concerns in Congress

Biohazard symbol_CDC image
Biohazard symbol_CDC image

Symbol for biohazard.(Photo: CDC)
Scientists wearing space-suitlike protective gear searched for hours in May for a mouse — infected with a virus similar to Ebola — that had escaped inside Rocky Mountain Laboratories in Montana, one of the federal government's highest-security research facilities, according to newly obtained incident reports that provide a window into the secretive world of bioterror lab accidents.
During the same month at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, a lab worker suffered a cut while trying to round up escaped ferrets that had been infected with a deadly strain of avian influenza, records show. Four days later at Colorado State University's bioterrorism lab, a worker failed to ensure dangerous bacteria had been killed before shipping specimens — some of them still able to grow — to another lab where a worker unwittingly handled them without key protective gear.
Nobody was sickened in the incidents and the mouse was caught the next day. Yet in the wake of serious lab mishaps with anthrax and bird flu at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that prompted an uproar and a Congressional hearing this summer, these additional incidents are further fueling bipartisan concern about lab safety.
"As long as we keep having an ad hoc system of oversight in this country, we're going to keep seeing more and more incidents," said U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette of Colorado, the ranking...
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