CDC chief to testify on anthrax exposure scare

The head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will be on the hot seat next week as a House panel investigates an agency lab’s mishandling of live anthrax bacteria.

CDC Director Tom Frieden will testify before the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations July 16 to discuss the missteps that led to 75 scientists potentially being exposed to the deadly bacteria.

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The mishandling of live anthrax sparked a national scare and raised lawmaker concerns about safety procedures at the CDC.

“A potential live anthrax exposure raises serious questions about CDC’s adherence to safety protocol measures and the agency’s ability to ensure its scientists and the public are safe,” said subcommittee Chairman Tim Murphy (R-Pa.).

The CDC’s investigation is still ongoing but the agency has said it will take disciplinary actions against those who mishandled the live anthrax at its Atlanta labs.

Following last month’s scare, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee wrote Frieden a letter asking him to explain how workers were allowed to come into contact with live anthrax and what the agency plans to do to prevent a repeat.

In 2012, the full House Energy and Commerce committee wrote a letter to Frieden to investigate whether the agency was complying with federal safety requirements when handling infectious diseases including anthrax after news reports detailed lapses in the agency’s protocols.