No anthrax threat found at Army lab

April 23, 2002|By Scott Shane | Scott Shane,SUN STAFF

Extensive weekend testing at Fort Detrick after an accidental leak of anthrax spores from a laboratory found no new areas of dangerous contamination, spokesman Chuck Dasey said yesterday.

Further sampling in an office and corridor where anthrax was found last week did find two more anthrax spores, he said. Those areas are being disinfected with a bleach solution and will be reopened when they are safe, he said.

Workers who took swabs in 800 places inside the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases also found traces of another strain of anthrax, one that does not cause human disease and is used to make vaccines, Dasey said.

On April 8, a small amount of a virulent anthrax mixture spilled from a flask inside a lab at USAMRIID, the military's top biodefense research facility.

One of two workers in the area of the spill had a positive nasal swab test for anthrax exposure. Both workers were placed on antibiotics, though they had been vaccinated against the disease and probably were not in danger.

Workers taking swabs outside the lab last week found some anthrax spores in an adjoining office and corridor. While the level of contamination was low, officials were concerned that any pathogens had escaped the controlled lab.

In addition to the two lab workers, 35 employees have now had nasal swabs. Their tests were all negative, Dasey said.

U.S. Sen. Mary L. Landrieu, a Louisiana Democrat who is chairwoman of a subcommittee on emerging threats, toured USAMRIID April 12 with six Senate staffers. They did not enter the contaminated areas and have been told they do not need to undergo testing or take antibiotics, said Maria Purdy, a spokeswoman for Landrieu.

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