Employees at CDC Reportedly Exposed to Anthrax

Over 70 employees are being treated after samples were sent to labs ill-equipped to handle the bacteria.
3:17 | 06/20/14

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Transcript for Employees at CDC Reportedly Exposed to Anthrax
We turn to the shocking details of an anthrax accident at the CDC. About 75 workers there could have been exposed to the biological weapon that is so often deadly and ABC's Linzie Janis is at the CDC headquarters in Atlanta. Good morning. Reporter: Good morning, George. A very serious and dangerous mistake was made here at the CDC in a bioterrorism lab and as a result, dozens of staffers may have been exposed to the deadly bacteria. This morning, approximately 75 employees at the centers for disease control are being offered treatment after possibly being exposed to live anthrax. The CDC where scientists study the deadliest germs and diseases in the world closing and decontaminating labs after a breach in lab procedures between June 6th and 13th might have led to leaking improperly deactivated samples of anthrax into the air. The CDC also saying that improper deactivation procedures were performed before the strain was shared between their labs leading some workers to wear less protective gear than recommended when handling anthrax telling ABC news "We are devastated. It is unacceptable. We are going to find out what went wrong, and we are going to fix it." According to the CDC, if anthrax is inhaled and left untreated, about 85% of cases result in fatalities. Even with treatment, the fatality rate can be as high as 45%. It's very disconcerting because it's one of the most secure biological facilities in the world. Reporter: This morning, the 75 employees are being offered treatment with antibiotics. The CDC says no one is showing any signs of illness, but notes that symptoms could take up to two months to appear. The workers are also being offered an anthrax vaccine. Now, the CDC is investigating this safety breach and says the scientists responsible could face disciplinary action. Amy. All right, thank you. Let's bring in chief health and medical editor Dr. Richard Besser who is also the former acting director of the CDC. You began your career there. You know the ins and outs. How did this happen? Yeah, so this took place in the front line lab at CDC for detecting a bioterrorism event and get powder samples from around the country trying to Cole up with a new method of killing the samples without wearing protective gear. Unfortunately, the new method for killing the anthrax didn't work and people received samples that had live anthrax in them. So for these 75 staffers what are the short and long-term effects here? What are the concerns and what will the treatments. They'll be looking for signs of anthrax which initially could just look like the flu, ache, fever, headache, that kind of thing. But, you know, I expect they'll take these antibiotics because if you wait until you develop symptoms, as many as 40% of people are going to die from that infection. Serious. Any health concerns for the public at large especially people near the CDC. Thankfully, no. It doesn't spread person to person. You can occasionally get the skin form from contaminated clothing but all the outer clothing was left in the lab. An investigation is under way to make sure it doesn't happen again. Exactly. I think they'll bring in outside people to take a look, as well. Dr. Richard Besser, thanks. We turn to the crisis in

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