Five researchers at a California hospital laboratory were exposed to anthrax while working on a vaccine to protect children from infection, the Associated Press reported yesterday (see GSN, June 8).
The workers at Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute believed they were working with syringes carrying a dead form of the virus. However, the Southern Research Institute in Frederick, Md., had shipped live anthrax, said hospital spokeswoman Bev Mikalonis.
The mistake came to light after separate groups of mice died after being injected with the anthrax in late May and last week, AP said.
The researchers are being treated with antibiotics, and none has shown symptoms of infection. State and hospital officials said they do not believe other people came into contact with the anthrax, but agencies including the FBI are investigating the potential for additional exposures.
The laboratory is located a mile away from the hospital, so patients were not in danger, officials told AP.
“We do not see a threat or danger to anyone in the community,” said Dr. Richard Jackson, California’s public health officer. “This really has been well controlled” (Paul Elias, Associated Press/Yahoo!News, June 10).
FBI bioterrorism agents removed the bacteria from the laboratory on Wednesday, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is investigating why the live anthrax was shipped to California, according to the Baltimore Sun. There is no suspicion of wrongdoing, an FBI spokesman said (Scott Shane, The Sun, June 11).