Via Reuters: U.S. CDC says it 'may never know' how bird flu mishap occurred. Excerpt:
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention "may never know" how a fairly harmless form of bird flu was cross-contaminated with a dangerous bird flu strain before it was sent to a laboratory outside of the CDC, an agency spokesman said on Monday.
That's because most of the materials used in the experiment to culture the virus were discarded shortly after they were used by the scientists performing the work, which occurred in March, CDC spokesman Tom Skinner told Reuters.
The CDC disclosed the bird flu incident as part of an internal investigation into the agency's mishandling of live anthrax in June, potentially exposing dozens of its own lab workers to the pathogen.
While no humans fell ill as a result of the bird flu breach, CDC Director Dr Thomas Frieden has called it “the most distressing" in a series of safety breaches at the agency because of the public risk posed by the virus.
Researchers at a high-security CDC influenza lab learned of their mistake in May. The contaminated bird flu samples had been sent to poultry researchers at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, who noticed their chickens all died.
It took another six weeks before the incident was reported to top brass at the CDC in early July, triggering an outside inspection of CDC labs that concluded on Friday.
Federal investigators are trying to piece together how it was that the laboratory never reported the incident up the chain of command.
Skinner said a key regulatory violation occurred when the CDC failed to properly document what it sent to the high-security biocontainment lab at the USDA.
"We thought we were sending H9N2," a far less dangerous form of bird flu, Skinner said. "We didn't know it was cross-contaminated."