Via The Globe and Mail: U.S. Pentagon officials say hundreds of anthrax vials have been shipped out. Excerpt:
Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of vials containing deadly anthrax spores have been shipped to scores of military, commercial and university laboratories in the United States, Canada and two other countries, top Pentagon officials said Wednesday, admitting that the scale and scope of the problem is far greater than first realized.
However, the risk to the general public is zero and to exposed lab workers extremely low, “close to zero,” said Robert Work, Deputy Secretary of Defence.
The spore concentrations in the samples were “far too low to infect an average healthy person,” he said.
Perhaps over as long as a decade, at least 51 laboratories in the United States, one in Canada and two others overseas have received vials of anthrax that was supposed to be dead but are now known to have contained live spores.
Dozens of lab workers in several U.S. states are currently receiving prophylactic drugs despite what is considered an extremely low level of risk, said Commander Franca Jones, director of medical programs for the Pentagon’s biological warfare unit.
“People have been working with this material for 10 years, but no one has contracted anthrax,” Cdmr. Jones said, although it remains unclear if live spores in extremely low concentrations have been shipped from more than one of the U.S. military’s four biological warfare labs since 2005.
Supposedly dead spore samples are sent to hundreds of labs as part of an ongoing effort to develop detection and countermeasures. A much smaller number of labs are intentionally sent live spore samples, but the current problem arises out of “killed” spores that have turned out to be alive.
Full-blown investigations are under way by both the U.S. Defence Department and the Centers for Disease Control.
The problem first emerged on May 22, when a lab reported that a supposedly dead sample of anthrax spores was growing in Petri dish. Those samples had been sent from a U.S. Army laboratory at Dugway Proving Ground in Utah.
At Wednesday’s news conference, Pentagon officials said labs in nearly every state as well as the District of Columbia and three countries – Canada, Australia and South Korea – had received spore samples now believed to have come from batches that were not properly killed.