Pentagon: Live anthrax breach hits 50 states, 9 countries

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Under a high magnification of 12,483X, this scanning electron micrograph depicted spores from the Sterne strain of anthrax bacteria.  Laura Rose/CDC
From Stripes.com
Under a high magnification of 12,483X, this scanning electron micrograph depicted spores from the Sterne strain of anthrax bacteria. Laura Rose/CDC

Pentagon: Live anthrax breach hits 50 states, 9 countries

by: Tara Copp | .
Stars and Stripes | .
published: September 03, 2015

The Department of Defense mistakenly shipped live anthrax to all 50 states and nine countries, the Pentagon said Tuesday, confirming a much wider breach than it first reported.

According to the latest data released online by the Defense Department, the number of labs receiving shipments from the Army’s Dugway Proving Ground in Utah has more than doubled to 194 from the original number confirmed by the Pentagon.

The release of most recent data, through Sept. 1, was updated online weeks ago, but the exact numbers were not discussed in a formal briefing, Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis said Wednesday.

In June, Pentagon spokesman Col. Steve Warren told Stars and Stripes that Osan Air Base in South Korea and a remote Pentagon security office were among 52 facilities in 17 states and three countries that had been notified that samples of the biological weapon they received might have inadvertently contained live spores. “No other overseas military facilities received anthrax samples,” he said at the time.

The Pentagon said the numbers of labs and countries would rise as more samples were tested, and figures released since June have shown the growing reach of the mistake.

At a briefing with reporters Wednesday, the Pentagon had no information on whether these updated figures represented the final reach of the shipped samples, or whether all of the countries impacted had been notified.

According to the most recent data, shipments from Dugway were inadvertently sent to:

  • 194 labs: government labs, university labs and corporate labs
  • Nine foreign countries: Japan, United Kingdom, Korea, Australia, Canada, Italy, Germany, Norway and Switzerland
  • 50 states and the District of Columbia
  • Guam, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands

The shipments, which occurred over the past 12 years, have not been tied to any known exposures or sickness, although the department had 31 personnel on preventative treatments in case they’d been exposed. Twenty-two of those were stationed in South Korea. The rest were scattered at facilities throughout the U.S.

The Defense Department “ships inactivated samples of anthrax spores to outside labs for research and development of DoD countermeasures to protect U.S. troops, allies, partners and the American public from biological attack,” according to its website.

copp.tara@stripes.com
 Twitter: @TaraCopp

 

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