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Pentagon: Live Anthrax Accidentally Sent to Labs in US, S Korea

  • VOA News

FILE - A scientist examines a package for anthrax spores.

FILE - A scientist examines a package for anthrax spores.

The Pentagon said Wednesday that a U.S. military laboratory in the state of Utah accidentally sent live anthrax spores to civilian commercial labs in nine states and a military lab in South Korea.

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

Pentagon spokesman Colonel Steven Warren sought to reassure the American public, saying there was no known risk and no suspected or confirmed cases of infection in lab workers.

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

The U.S. labs and the one in South Korea were supposed to get dead spores as part of a Pentagon program to develop a test to identify biological threats in the field. But somehow, the Utah lab sent live spores instead.

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