Dr. Ileana Arias, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said she and investigators have been working overtime to get to the bottom of how and why dozens of employees may have been exposed to anthrax.
"It is unacceptable. It is something that never should have happened and we are committed to doing anything we can once we find out all the specifics of what happened," said Arias.
The FBI has now joined the investigation, but Arias said she does not believe foul play was involved.
Officials said it appears proper procedures were not followed when the deadly bacteria was passed from a lab equipped to handle live bacteria to another, that is equipped to handle only dead or deactivated bacteria.
"What they were doing was trying to calibrate or work with new equipment they had for the detection of anthrax and other kinds of infections. They needed the spores to actually do that, but in order to do that safely they had to be deactivated. Unfortunately they were sent samples that had not been fully deactivated and that is where the problems came in," Arias said.
Arias said 84 people are being evaluated as a precautionary measure, but so far no one has shown signs of infection.
"We are taking this very seriously. This is not something we are sweeping under the rug or that we are not paying attention to. This is a very serious event and we are going to be as transparent as possible," said Arias.
Officials said the labs where the anthrax was studied are back open after they were shut down and decontaminated.
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Sunday, August 31 2014 3:28 PM EDT2014-08-31 19:28:29 GMT
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