United States mil­i­tary ad­mits to yet more blun­ders in­volv­ing live an­thrax sam­ples


A U.S. Army lab sent a live sam­ple of an­thrax to Canada by mis­take and may have sent the deadly bac­te­ria to the Pen­tagon’s po­lice force as well, of­fi­cials said Tues­day.

The lat­est dis­cov­er­ies raised fresh ques­tions about the De­fense Depart­ment’s han­dling of the lethal ma­te­rial and the ex­tent of the prob- lem in­volv­ing mis­taken ship­ments of an­thrax.

As a spate of em­bar­rass­ing de­tails emerged over the past week, de­fense of­fi­cials ac­knowl­edged it was un­clear how many gov­ern­ment or com­mer­cial labs could have re­ceived the vials.

“We can con­firm that yes­ter­day we determined that we had shipped an­thrax to Canada,” Pen­tagon spokesman Colonel Steven War­ren said.

The sam­ple came from a larger batch or “mas­ter sam­ple” that tested as “live,” he said.

The live an­thrax sam­ple was sent to a lab in Al­berta prov­ince, a de­fense of­fi­cial told AFP on con­di­tion of anonymity.

The ma­te­rial had been ir­ra­di­ated at the U.S. Army’s Dug­way Prov­ing Ground in Utah, but for some rea­son the bac­te­ria was not ren­dered in­ac­tive as in­tended.

Au­thor­i­ties also are testing an­thrax sam­ples from the Utah lab that were sent to the Pen­tagon Force Pro­tec­tion Agency, which guards the De­fense Depart­ment, of­fi­cials said.

The sam­ples, which were sup­posed to be in­ac­tive, were to be used to help test gear de­signed to de­tect bi­o­log­i­cal or chem­i­cal agents.

Of­fi­cials said the sam­ples are be­ing tested in a lab­o­ra­tory near the main Pen­tagon build­ing just out­side Wash­ing­ton, which serves as the head­quar­ters for the US mil­i­tary.

The Pen­tagon has al­ready ad­mit­ted to blun­ders that in­clude live an­thrax spores be­ing shipped to lab­o­ra­to­ries across the United States as well as to Australia and South Korea.

Two other batches of live an­thrax have been found at Dug­way Prov­ing Ground.

Sam­ples from that ma­te­rial have been trans­ported to at least 28 labs in at least 12 U.S. states. And of­fi­cials said that the num­ber is likely to go up as an in­ter­nal in­quiry pro­gresses.

As a pre­cau­tion, 27 peo­ple were re­ceiv­ing preven­ta­tive med­i­cal treat­ment, in­clud­ing 22 mil­i­tary and civil­ian per­son­nel at Osan Air Base in South Korea.

But U.S. of­fi­cials said there was no threat posed to public health and no sus­pected cases of in­fec­tion. And the vials sent out with sam­ples con­tained such small amounts of an­thrax bac­te­ria that even if in­gested, it would not prove lethal, of­fi­cials said.

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