News / USA

    US Lawmakers Expand Probe of Federal Biolab Mishaps

    The Centers for Disease Control's main facility in Atlanta, Georgia, June 20, 2014.
    The Centers for Disease Control's main facility in Atlanta, Georgia, June 20, 2014.
    Reuters

    U.S. lawmakers on Monday said they were expanding their investigation of federal biosecurity lapses including problems at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that led to the mishandling of anthrax and bird flu pathogens.

    Republicans from the House Energy and Commerce Committee said they sent a letter on Monday to the CDC director, Dr. Thomas Frieden, asking him to explain why the leading U.S. public health agency was unable to detect systemic problems involving the handling of deadly agents dating back to 2010.

    "Since part of CDC's epidemiology work is detecting or recognizing patterns of disease outbreaks, how could CDC not recognize the pattern of select agent incidents?" five Republican lawmakers led by committee chairman Fred Upton of Michigan ask Frieden in the letter.

    U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Tom Frieden testifies before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee hearing on "Review of CDC anthrax LabIncident" on Capitol Hill in Washington, July 16, 2014.U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Tom Frieden testifies before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee hearing on "Review of CDC anthrax LabIncident" on Capitol Hill in Washington, July 16, 2014.
    x
    U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Tom Frieden testifies before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee hearing on "Review of CDC anthrax LabIncident" on Capitol Hill in Washington, July 16, 2014.
    U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Tom Frieden testifies before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee hearing on "Review of CDC anthrax LabIncident" on Capitol Hill in Washington, July 16, 2014.

    The lawmakers, who held a hearing with Frieden on July 16, also sent letters to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General.

    The panel's Oversight and Investigations subcommittee is investigating lapses including the potential exposure of more than 80 CDC employees to live anthrax bacteria in June and the unintended release of a deadly strain of avian flu earlier in the year.

    FDA workers have also discovered vials of smallpox, dengue fever, influenza and other pathogens at a facility on the NIH campus outside Washington.

    No one has fallen ill as a result of the incidents. But the committee is weighing the possibility of congressional action to protect against future dangers to public safety.

    The CDC responded to the anthrax incident by temporarily shuttering labs. It also created a new post to oversee lab safety at the agency and requested input from outside advisers on how address safety lapses.

    The director of the lab involved in the anthrax incident resigned last week.

    But lawmakers are concerned that the steps parallel a plan Frieden announced in 2012 to address earlier issues with the handling of pathogens. In the letter to Frieden, they ask CDC if those steps were not taken in 2012, or if they were, whether they were ineffective.

    "An insufficient culture of safety at the agency charged with dealing with the most dangerous pathogens known to man is beyond belief and wholly unacceptable," Upton and subcommittee chairman Tim Murphy of Pennsylvania said in a statement.

    "These recent safety lapses raise a number of questions and concerns regarding how federal agencies are responding to these incidents, what actions have been taken in the past, and does Congress need to intervene. Ziploc bags somehow become an acceptable means to handle anthrax and who knows what other deadly agents - those days are over," they said.  

    You May Like

    US-Russia Tensions Complicate Syria War

    With a shared enemy and opposing allies, Russia and the US are working to avoid confrontation

    Video Re-opening Old Wounds in Beirut's Bullet-riddled Yellow House

    Built in neo-Ottoman style in 1920s, it is set to be re-opened in Sept. as ‘memory museum’ - bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity

    Cambodian-Americans Lobby for Human Rights Resolution

    Resolution condemns all forms of political violence in Cambodia, urges Cambodian government to end human rights violations, calls for respect of press freedom

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territoryi
    X
    June 24, 2016 9:38 PM
    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territory

    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Experts: Very Few Killed in US Gun Violence Are Victims of Mass Shootings

    The deadly shooting at a Florida nightclub has reignited the debate in the U.S. over gun control. Although Congress doesn't provide government health agencies funds to study gun violence, public health experts say private research has helped them learn some things about the issue. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
    Video

    Video Trump Unleashes Broadside Against Clinton to Try to Ease GOP Doubts

    Recent public opinion polls show Republican Donald Trump slipping behind Democrat Hillary Clinton in the presidential election matchup for November. Trump trails her both in fundraising and campaign organization, but he's intensifying his attacks on the former secretary of state. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.
    Video

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.
    Video

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapide’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.
    Video

    Video Florida Gets $1 Million in Emergency Government Funding for Orlando

    The U.S. government has granted $1 million in emergency funding to the state of Florida to cover the costs linked to the June 12 massacre in Orlando. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the grant Tuesday in Orlando, where she met with survivors of the shooting attack that killed 49 people. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video How to Print Impossible Shapes with Metal

    3-D printing with metals is rapidly becoming more advanced. As printers become more affordable, the industry is partnering with universities to refine processes for manufacturing previously impossible things. A new 3-D printing lab aims to bring the new technology closer to everyday use. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Big Somali Community in Minnesota Observes Muslim Religious Feast

    Ramadan is widely observed in the north central US state of Minnesota, which a large Muslim community calls home. VOA Somali service reporter Mohmud Masadde files this report from Minneapolis, the state's biggest city.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora