(NaturalNews) There seems to be no end to the blundering at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as yet another "accident" involving sloppy laboratory procedures and deadly viral strains has been reported.
According to The Associated Press (AP), one of the federal agency's scientists kept quiet about a "potentially dangerous lab" mistake, revealing it only after other workers in another lab noticed something strange, an internal CDC investigation has found.
As further reported by the AP:
The accident happened in January at the headquarters of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. A lab scientist accidently mixed a deadly strain of bird flu with a tamer strain, and sent the mix to another CDC lab and to an outside lab in Athens, Georgia.
Though no one was made ill by the bird flu, unsuspecting scientists nevertheless worked with the viral mix for a number of months before the error was finally discovered, which could have led to infection.
More transparency needed
Officials at the CDC have called this latest incident the most worrisome of all in a series of lab safety issues at the governmental disease control agency, which had long been regarded as a model for public health agencies around the world.
Earlier this summer, a CDC lab mishandled anthrax samples; the result was the shuttering of both the bird flu and anthrax labs, officials said.
"We all feel horrible this happened," Dr. Anne Schuchat, who oversees the CDC's Influenza Division -- which includes the lab where the bird flu accident took place, told the AP.
Due to agency employee privacy rules, Schuchat could not divulge the name of the lab scientist or the leader of the scientist's team, both of whom were faulted during the investigation, according to a report released August 15. She further stated that disciplinary actions were being implemented but did not provide any further details.
The CDC's release of its investigative findings is one of a number of recent signs that the agency is attempting to right itself, according to Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University in Nashville. However, he told the AP that the agency should probably, at a minimum, disclose its disciplinary measures, in order to reassure the public that the agency is taking its mistakes seriously.
According to the agency's report, the lab scientist who made the bird flu error was working with both known strains of it -- the deadly form as well as a tamer version. The CDC's laboratory rules mandate that they be handled separately, and it should have taken at least 90 minutes to process each sample.
But the agency's investigation found that the work had been completed in 51 minutes, which is a clear indication that the scientists took shortcuts, according to Schuchat.
Series of mistakes
The agency said the lab scientist told investigators that he was performing the work in the proper sequence, but that he was rushed to finish the job due to a meeting that he was scheduled to attend. CDC officials said it was possible that the scientist worked on both of the strains at once.
As the AP further noted:
In February, some of the mixed virus sample was sent to another CDC lab in Atlanta. In March, a shipment of it went to a U.S. Department of Agriculture laboratory in Athens. For a study, the bird flu virus was given to chickens. The chickens died, prompting USDA staff to take a hard look at the sample and detect the deadly strain.
The USDA lab notified the CDC lab in May, and the latter confirmed the finding. But the CDC team leader failed to report what happened to supervisors or anyone else, figuring that the viral mix was contained at all times in specialized laboratories and was therefore never a threat to the public, according to the investigative report.
Agency officials were only told in June after the second CDC lab reported a problem with its sample.