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CDC lab shutdown could disrupt Texas biohazard lab


By Associated Press
Posted: July 20, 2014 - 1:00 pm ET
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The shutdown of two federal biohazard laboratories because of an anthrax scare and other safety problems could disrupt operations at a biohazard lab in Galveston, the Houston Chronicle reported .

The report comes after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention closed two Atlanta-area laboratories earlier this month after an incident at one lab could have accidentally exposed workers in three labs to anthrax. A second, previously undisclosed problem earlier this year involved deadly bird flu.

The CDC also released a report that detailed three other incidents in the past decade in which mistakes or other problems caused potentially dangerous germs to be sent out. No lab worker or member of the public was sickened in any of the incidents, the CDC said.

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Internal and outside panels will investigate both recent problems and review safety procedures for handling dangerous germs, Dr. Tom Frieden, the CDC director, has said.

The Galveston National Laboratory at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston works closely with the CDC on several projects, lab director James LeDuc said. One project is the study of the Crimean Congo hemorrhagic fever. If the Atlanta labs remain closed "for any length of time, it will impact that," he said of the Crimean Congo hemorrhagic fever study.

An overreaction to the accident could lead to unnecessary new regulations, LeDuc told the Chronicle.

"I don't think this situation will be resolved by rules and regulations. It's a personal error and a lack of leadership and supervision. They just need to make sure people follow the rules in place," he said.

In 2002 through Aug. 11, 2008, 25 possible exposures to infectious agents were reported among the 1,500 employees and students at the Galveston medical school's biomedical research programs. No possible exposures have been reported so far this year.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office reported earlier this month that no government agency is held responsible for supervising the safety of about 400 laboratories authorized to handle hazardous biological material nationwide. It also noted that no national standards exist for the construction and operation of the laboratories, and the recent CDC accidents emphasize the need for a national safety strategy, the GAO said.


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