Military accidentally ships live anthrax to labs in nine states

The Defense Department accidentally sent live anthrax to labs in nine states and South Korea and is working with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to contain it, the Pentagon said Wednesday.

“The Department of Defense is collaborating with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in their investigation of the inadvertent transfer of samples containing live Bacillus anthracis, also known as anthrax, from a DoD lab in Dugway, Utah, to labs in nine states," said Army Col. Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman.

"There is no known risk to the general public, and there are no suspected or confirmed cases of anthrax infection in potentially exposed lab workers. The DoD lab was working as part of a DoD effort to develop a field-based test to identify biological threats in the environment. Out of an abundance of caution, DoD has stopped the shipment of this material from its labs pending completion of the investigation," Warren added.

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It is unclear whether anyone was exposed to the live sample, or whether anyone has been quarantined for treatment.

A Defense Department official said on background that the anthrax sample was prepared at the Dugway Army facility as part of routine research, then sent to the laboratories. All of the samples were supposed to be dead or inactive.

The labs were in Texas, Maryland, Wisconsin, Delaware, New Jersey, Tennessee, New York, California and Virginia.

Warren later said that a sample was also sent overseas to "the Joint United States Forces Korea (USFK) Portal and Integrated Threat Recognition Program at Osan Air Base" in South Korea.

"There is no known risk to the general public, and no personnel have shown any signs of possible exposure. The sample was destroyed in accordance with appropriate protocols," he said.

A lab in Maryland first notified the Pentagon on May 22 in the late evening that it had received a live sample. The Pentagon then informed the CDC on May 23.

So far, the only live sample has been found in Maryland.

The number of affected labs could grow, since the original labs had already turned over some of their anthrax sample to other facilities.

- Updated at 5:52 p.m.