Before anthrax mishap, CDC made similar safety pledges

2014-07-18 15:12

(Shutterstock)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Washington - US lawmakers investigating repeated safety lapses at government laboratories questioned on Thursday whether the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention was up to the task of fixing the problem, given similar promises to remedy such breaches in 2012.

The CDC is under scrutiny for a June incident, in which more than 80 lab workers may have been exposed to live anthrax bacteria that were mistakenly sent out of a high-security lab on its Atlanta campus.

Federal investigators have since reported dozens of other infractions at CDC labs that handle deadly pathogens such as anthrax and avian flu.

A House Energy and Commerce subcommittee is investigating the incident and the CDC's response. Committee members are weighing the possibility of imposing new outside oversight on CDC labs and crafting national lab safety standards that would be administered by a single government body.

On Thursday, Committee Chairperson Fred Upton made public a 2012 letter from CDC Director Dr Thomas Frieden saying the agency had put a senior official in charge of lab security and was soliciting advice from outside experts in bio-security.

Safety issues

"We have designated a senior official who will report directly to the CDC Director regarding concerns or complaints related to safety at CDC's laboratories", Frieden said in the letter from September 2012 that was addressed to Upton.

Two years later, those measures did not appear to prevent a new round of safety breaches, including the anthrax incident.

Last week, Frieden said the CDC had appointed Dr Michael Bell to be in charge of lab safety issues and would convene a panel of outside experts to advise the agency.

"These measures sound very similar to the corrective actions Dr Frieden outlined last Friday to address the current lab crisis", Upton said. "Why should we believe this time that things will be different?"

Frieden testified on Wednesday at a hearing of the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations.

When asked about the senior official put in charge of lab security in 2012, Frieden was unable to name the appointee or describe the official's duties.

"I will have to get back to you about that to get you the name and the details of what was done pursuant to that letter", he told Representative Gregg Harper, a Mississippi Republican.

CDC spokesperson Tom Skinner said on Thursday that CDC official Joseph Henderson was named to the position around March 2013, and that the role included a broader portfolio of responsibilities. Henderson, currently director of the Office of Safety, Security and Asset Management, sat next to Frieden at the witness table during the subcommittee hearing.

"When that letter was written in September 2012, there may have been a person designated in an acting role. Joe was hired full time seven months later in 2013", Skinner said.
Read more on:    cdc  |  us  |  health  |  narcotics

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
0 comments
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

 
/News

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.