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CDC Refuses to Identify "Select Agent" Sites

The U.S. government is not obligated to disclose the names or placement of facilities that manage dangerous disease materials, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told activists in Maryland on Tuesday (see GSN, Feb. 15).

The United States as of March 1 had 365 sites listed as handling or delivering potentially harmful substances designated as "select agents," the Fredrick News-Post quoted CDC Select Agents and Toxins Division Director Robbin Weyant as saying in remarks to members of the Containment Lab Community Advisory Committee.

Select agents are defined as "biological agents and toxins have been determined to have the potential to pose a severe threat to both human and animal health, to plant health, or to animal and plant products."

Facilities undergo scheduled or surprise audits every year and a half to two years if they handle any of the more sensitive listed materials, the official said, adding such checks involve discussions with personnel; scrutiny of accident response and reporting plans; and examination of controlled biological assets.

Weyant and another CDC representative declined to disclose the quantity of sites handling such materials in Fredrick County, Md. A CDC system now under development would aid in evaluating patterns, Weyant said.

Frederick County is home to the U.S. Army's Fort Detrick, which houses a number of biodefense installations. Committee participants have expressed concern about the potential operation of separate sites that work with dangerous disease materials outside of government and without public knowledge.

"We're dealing with a trust issue," according to committee participant Ray Hunter.

"We're not allowed to know who they are or where they are until they make a mistake," added fellow committee member Roxanne Beal (Courtney Mabeus, Fredrick News-Post, March 14).

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GSN ceased publication on July 31, 2014. Its articles and daily issues will remain archived and available on NTI’s website.

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