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Anthrax samples mistakenly sent to lab in Wisconsin

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention began investigating an inadvertent transfer of agents from the United States Department of Defense to several government and commercial labs in the United States and one overseas location. One of the labs is located in Wisconsin, according to Wisconsin's Department of Health Services.

The DOD was working with the commercial labs helping to develop a new diagnostic test to identify biological threats. One lab was able to grow live Bacillus anthracis, commonly known as anthrax.

One sample from the commercial Wisconsin lab has been transferred to CDC for further testing. Scientists who worked with the specimen have not developed symptoms, but have been offered antibiotics that can prevent anthrax from developing in people who have been exposed.

There have been no signs of illness among those workers. The commercial lab remains closed while the sample is being tested by the CDC. Officials with the Wisconsin Department of Health Services add that there is no known risk to the general public.

DHS is consulting with the lab, CDC, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to determine best practices for decontamination, waste disposal, and for contracted services, such as laundry and biohazard waste pick up.

CNN reports the sample came from a military lab at the Dugway, Utah, Army facility, according to two defense officials.

The anthrax samples were shipped from Dugway to government and commercial labs in Texas, Maryland, Wisconsin, Delaware, New Jersey, Tennessee, New York, California and Virginia, according to the AP.

They did not disclose the lab that received the live anthrax, but said it was that lab that reported receiving the live agent sample. Samples are supposed to be rendered dead before they are shipped under a routine research program.

All military, government and commercial labs that may have received samples are now reviewing their inventory of anthrax.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is currently investigating the incident, in conjunction with the Defense Department, and said they do not suspect any risk to the general public at this time.

\"CDC is working in conjunction with state and federal partners to conduct an investigation with all the labs that received samples from the DOD,\" Jason McDonald, a CDC spokesman said. \"The ongoing investigation includes determining if the labs also received other live samples, epidemiologic consultation, worker safety review, laboratory analysis and handling of laboratory waste.\"

A military spokesman confirmed there is currently no known public risk, nor any illnesses reported stemming from the incident.

\"The DOD lab was working as part of a DOD effort to develop a field-based test to identify biological threats in the environment,\" said Col. Steven H. Warren, a department spokesman. \"Out of an abundance of caution, DOD has stopped the shipment of this material from its labs pending completion of the investigation.\"

The investigation began after a request from a private commercial lab.

\"The lab was working as part of a DOD effort to develop a new diagnostic test to identify biological threats,\" McDonald said. \"Although an inactivated agent was expected, the lab reported they were able to grow live Bacillus anthracis (anthrax).\"

The CDC has sent officials to the military labs to conduct on-site investigations, he said.

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