Sloppy sce­nario at the CDC

Only govern­ment would leave deadly an­thrax in an unlocked fridge

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary - By Tammy Bruce

In­dulge me for a mo­ment with an imag­i­nary sce­nario: A friend asks you to store his an­thrax for a lit­tle while. You don’t need sev­eral letters af­ter your name to know you’re be­ing asked to do some­thing very, very dan­ger­ous. Let’s say you don’t have a real choice and agree to hold onto it. First things first, you de­ter­mine what kind of container you need to keep the bac­te­ria truly en­cased and iso­lated. It’s ei­ther that or use your Zi­ploc bag­gies to move it around, but even we reg­u­lar people know that’s in­sane. I mean, when a sand­wich is in the Zi­ploc, you can still smell the PB&J. If the smell of PB&J can es­cape the Zi­ploc bag­gie, so can an­thrax. So Zi­plocs are out; a se­ri­ous, of­fi­cial container for the hor­ri­bly lethal bac­te­ria is in.

It also needs to be re­frig­er­ated, so you’d get a small fridge and put a lock on it. No-brainer. Who knows, maybe your land­lord lets a plumber in — and the last thing you want is an in­no­cent stranger, scout­ing for a snack, to en­counter an­thrax in a Zi­ploc next to the Jell-O pud­ding and muffins.

Bot­tom line: The last thing you’d do is put the deadly stuff in an un­se­cured fridge in a hall­way, where any­one could ac­cess it. That would be dan­ger­ous with a big help­ing of crazy sauce, right? Right.

Most thought­ful, reg­u­lar people would painstak­ingly go through the de­tails of what would be re­quired to safely han­dle and store one of the world’s most lethal forms of bac­te­ria. It re­quires com­mon sense, and per­haps a lit­tle In­ter­net search­ing, but you would cer­tainly be care­ful.

But that’s you. The Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol? They’ve taken the baf­fling “crazy sauce” ap­proach when it comes to han­dling these lethal germs. We learned this week that sci­en­tists and lab work­ers at high-se­cu­rity labs at the CDC did ev­ery sin­gle thing a nor­mal hu­man would not do when deal­ing with deadly bac­te­ria.

From a very in­for­ma­tive con­gres­sional hear­ing, Bloomberg Busi­nessWeek re­ported the rev­e­la­tion that the CDC had been warned for years about the “sloppy han­dling of pathogens.” The in­sti­tute’s prob­lem of care­less­ness ap­par­ently isn’t limited to the one un­for­tu­nate in­ci­dent of 80 CDC work­ers be­com­ing ex­posed to an­thrax af­ter an in­cau­tious labto-lab trans­fer.

In fact, New York mag­a­zine re­ported re­sults of a sep­a­rate au­dit of the CDC, which found the lab had been “trans­fer­ring dan­ger­ous ma­te­ri­als in Zi­ploc bags, stor­ing an­thrax in unlocked re­frig­er­a­tors in an un­re­stricted hall­way, and mis­plac­ing an­thrax con­tain­ers.” Not. Kid­ding. How bad is it when “sloppy” is used as a de­scrip­tion for CDC labs? Bloomberg asked Richard Ebright, a Rut­gers Univer­sity molec­u­lar bi­ol­o­gist, who noted, “In the event of a sim­i­lar in­ci­dent with one of those bi­o­log­i­cal­weapons agent pathogens, now not only are work­ers at risk, but the com­mu­nity is at risk as well,” Mr. Ebright said. “And by com­mu­nity, I’m not talk­ing about a neigh­bor­hood in At­lanta — I’m talk­ing about a state, a coun­try, a planet.”

Fab­u­lous. Re­ally, who needs ISIS when you’ve got big, care­less, in­com­pe­tent govern­ment agencies?

On the same day as the CDC con­gres­sional hear­ing, the U.S. Food and Drug Ad­min­is­tra­tion (FDA) had a lit­tle an­nounce­ment of its own.

Re­mem­ber the six vials of small­pox dis­cov­ered, af­ter decades sit­ting in an un­used Na­tional In­sti­tutes of Health cold-stor­age room? Well, it wasn’t just six vials — it was 12 boxes con­tain­ing 327 vials, all filled with some of the world’s dead­li­est germs. The FDA is­sued a state­ment de­scrib­ing the dis­cov­ery of “… care­fully pack­aged vials la­beled with names of var­i­ous bi­o­log­i­cal agents, such as dengue, in­fluenza, Q fever, and rick­ettsia … .”

What wor­ries me are the words “such as,” in that state­ment, which means the com­plete list of bi­o­log­i­cal agents found is not be­ing shared with the pub­lic. Con­sid­er­ing the se­crecy and in­com­pe­tence of the en­tire Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion, I doubt the truth will be forth­com­ing.

As the Vet­er­ans Af­fairs (VA) cri­sis be­came ap­par­ent, and with the In­ter­nal Rev­enue Ser­vice ca­reen­ing to­ward crim­i­nal reck­less­ness, I told my ra­dio au­di­ence that we were see­ing the nat­u­ral and ugly re­sult of big govern­ment. The cor­rup­tion, crim­i­nal­ity and in­com­pe­tence spread­ing through­out one agency of the federal govern­ment was very likely em­bed­ded in all of them. The hor­rific abuse and cor­rup­tion at the VA, I warned, would prove to be em­blem­atic of a gov­ern­men­tal sys­temwide fail­ure. No mat­ter how fright­en­ing, we must de­mand an­swers, con­front the prob­lems, and force change on a body that has grown com­fort­able (and deadly) with its own grow­ing, craven na­ture. Tammy Bruce is a ra­dio talk-show host, au­thor and Fox News con­trib­u­tor.

IL­LUS­TRA­TION BY LINAS GARSYS/ THE WASH­ING­TON TIMES

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