The government had to cop to a big-ole mea culpa yesterday when the Pentagon confirmed that that the U.S. military shipped live anthrax samples around the world via FedEx.
Samples of the toxic bacteria went to private research laboratories in nine states and one in South Korea. CNN reports that four lab workers in the U.S. and up to 22 overseas are now in post-exposure treatment to the deadly contaminant.
“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 Col. Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman.
The cat came out the bag on Wednesday when a Maryland-based lab realized the error, spurring a review to see if any other live anthrax went out. That triggered a response from the Defense Department and other agencies, including the FBI, to trace the shipments to ensure that they were properly secured, reports ABC News.
The danger was that less rigorous protocol was observed in handling the antrax because the shipments were thought to be dead.
Science experts told the Defense Department there was no risk to the public from shipping in those containers, and a spokesperson for FedEx says that the company is working closely with the government to “gather information about these shipments.”