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What can we learn from the CDC’s mistakes?

If the big lab can’t get it right, we’ve got problems.

It goes without saying that the CDC was right to shut down some of the nation’s top biohazard labs as they investigate what’s going on there, and why they can’t stop exposing their workers – and us – to some of the world’s most lethal germs.

The CDC admitted this week it “may never know” how a fairly harmless form of bird flu was cross-contaminated with a dangerous bird flu strain before it was sent to a laboratory to be studied by poultry researchers at the U.S. Department of Agriculture in March, according to a report from Reuters News Service.

Government officials quoted by Reuters said most of the materials [1] used in the experiment to culture the virus were discarded shortly after they were used by the scientists performing the work, who discovered the mistake after all of their chickens died.

I’ll tell you what’s going on. They aren’t following what should be second nature protocols. Things like keeping accurate records, wearing the proper protection when working with dangerous stuff, and not keeping Anthrax and Smallpox in a fridge.

Yes, these are the things coming out in the news about the CDC: Lab workers walking from one end of the building to another carrying live spores of deadly Anthrax without proper breathing protection, sending through the mail a live strain of deadly H5N1 Avian flu to another lab, and 60-year-old vials of smallpox sitting in a refrigerator where employees might also keep their lunch.

I’ll be really interested to see what the investigation, which will be conducted by an outside consultant, will dig up on this.

In the meantime, I’d like to know from you – what can we learn about lab safety and medical clinic safety from the CDC’s mistakes?

Drop me a line at jpalmer@hcpro.com.