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.