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Pentagon Accidentally Sent Anthrax to US Labs, Overseas Base

  • VOA News

FILE - The main gate at Dugway Proving Ground military base.

FILE - The main gate at Dugway Proving Ground military base.

Over two dozen people are undergoing precautionary treatment for anthrax after the U.S. military accidently shipped live samples of the deadly bacteria to civilian commercial labs in nine states and a military lab in South Korea.

Officials say four laboratory workers in the United States, along with 22 personnel at Osan Air Force Base outside of Seoul, may have been exposed to anthrax shipped from the Army's Dugway Proving Ground in Utah. The facilities were supposed to receive dead anthrax spores as part of a Pentagon program to develop a test to identify biological threats in the field.

Facts About Anthrax

Anthrax spores are formed by anthrax bacteria. Although not contagious, the spores can remain dormant for decades.

Anthrax bacteria occurs naturally in soil in many parts of the world, but may be weaponized, most often in powder form.

Domestic livestock such as sheep, cattle, horses and goats are common anthrax hosts.

Rare in US, but common in developing countries such as Iran, Iraq, Turkey, Pakistan & sub-Saharan Africa.

Can be treated with antibiotics if caught early, otherwise serious complications may cause inflammation of the membranes
and fluid covering the brain and spinal cord, leading to massive bleeding and death.

Source: Mayo Clinic

The laboratories that received the live anthrax spores are located in California, Tennessee, Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin. The laboratory in Maryland alerted authorities about the live samples it received late last week.

Pentagon spokesman Colonel Steven Warren reassured the American public that there is no known risk and no suspected or confirmed cases of infection in lab workers. The military says the live anthrax sample sent to Osan Air Force Base has been destroyed.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control is investigating. Warren said the Pentagon has stopped shipping anthrax spores until the investigation is complete.

Contact with live anthrax can lead to a severe flu-like illness that could be fatal if not treated early.

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