Ebola alarm raised for CDC lab workers

Ebola alarm raised for CDC lab workers
© Getty Images

A technician working in a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lab may have been exposed to the Ebola virus, the agency said on Wednesday.

Material used in an Ebola experiment was reportedly transferred by accident from a highly secure lab to another, less secure, facility at the agency's Atlanta headquarters on Monday. The material may have included a sample of the Ebola virus.

ADVERTISEMENT

The agency said the accident had not created any risk of public exposure to the virus.

Agency leaders were notified of the lapse shortly after it was discovered Tuesday, according to the CDC.

A lab technician who processed the material in the second lab is being monitored for 21 days. The technician is currently not showing any symptoms.

Other employees who entered the lab have been evaluated, the agency added, but do not currently merit monitoring.

"We are monitoring the health of one technician who could possibly have been exposed and I have directed that there be a full review of every aspect of the incident and that CDC take all necessary measures," said CDC Director Dr. Thomas Frieden in a statement.

The Washington Post broke the news of the mistake.

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa, which has claimed over 7,500 lives, has sparked public health fears and an international response to contain the deadly disease.

It became a political issue in the U.S. shortly before the midterm elections after a Liberian man came to America infected with the virus and later died.

Public alarm over the virus has since eased after Craig Spencer, a New York City doctor and the most recent person in the U.S. confirmed to have Ebola, recovered.

During the heat of the debate, Republicans blasted the CDC as being underprepared for the outbreak after the agency also cleared an infected hospital worker to take a flight from Ohio to Texas.

The hospital that treated the patient in Dallas was also criticized for failing to initially recognize his symptoms as signs of Ebola. A nurse at the facility also became infected with the disease.

The Ebola material is only the latest safety scare for the CDC. The agency struggled with lab security issues earlier this year when samples of the flu and the anthrax virus were mishandled. Agency leaders said at the time that they would bolster lab protocols to prevent further breaches.

Frieden said Wednesday that lab safety will remain a priority for the agency.

"No risk to staff is acceptable, and our efforts to improve lab safety are essential -- the safety of our employees is our highest priority,' he said in a statement.