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The military is sending live anthrax around the country


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(NaturalNews) Don't look now, but there is a new anthrax outbreak set to take place. Perhaps most surprisingly, it is the U.S. military that is at fault.

According to reports by CNN and others, four lab workers in the U.S. and as many as 22 more overseas have been confined to post-exposure treatment after the military inadvertently shipped live anthrax samples using shipping company FedEx, defense officials said.

CNN reported that the network learned on May 27 that a lab based in Maryland had been sent live samples, which triggered an across-the-board urgent review to see if other live anthrax samples had also been shipped.

Military in damage control

The samples were thought to be dead and were therefore shipped under less stringent conditions than they would normally have been subjected to had the senders known the samples were actually live.

By mid-morning the following day, May 28, conflicting information began to emerge about when the samples were actually shipped and where they went.

"Officials are concerned because samples left over at the lab in Dugway, Utah, where the samples originated, were tested and determined to contain live agent," reported CNN.

Officials at FedEx did not initially confirm the report.

"FedEx is committed to the safe transport of all customer shipments, and our priority is the safety of our employees," spokesman Jim McCluskey said. "We will be working closely with the Department of Defense and the Centers for Disease Control to gather information about these shipments."

Meanwhile, Defense Department officials were told that there was no risk to the general public from shipping containers. Nevertheless, four workers across nine states that received the shipments are being treated as though they had been exposed to live samples because they handled the containers.

Col. Steve Warren, a spokesman for DoD, said one sample had also been sent to the Joint United States Forces Korea Portal and Integrated Threat Recognition Program at Osan Air Base in South Korea.

"The sample was destroyed in accordance with appropriate protocols," Warren said, according to CNN.

In addition, as many as 22 people in a training lab were also exposed, according to a statement from the air base. They included five active duty Air Force members, ten active duty Army members, three civilians and four contractors. They are being treated in South Korea.

Growing number of incidents where anthrax has been (mis)handled

Why does the military -- the U.S. government -- maintain anthrax samples in the first place, dead or alive? Anthrax is a serious infectious disease that can be utilized as a weapon of mass destruction, as in the case of the mass anthrax poisoning that occurred soon after the terrorist attacks of 9/11.

According to the National Institutes of Health, the government and the military routinely conduct anthrax-related research as a way to combat the disease as well as an element of warfare.

Why were samples being shipped to an air base in South Korea? No one at the Pentagon is saying, but according to a 2000 report by the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee, South Korea, along with North Korea and a handful of other nations, had an active biological warfare program that, presumably, included the development of anthrax as a weapon.

In any event, the military was in full damage control after reports about the shipment leaked out. Reuters reported:

Army Chief of Staff General Raymond Odierno said investigators were now reviewing the procedures themselves to determine why the bacteria was not rendered inactive.

"The best I can tell there was not human error," Odierno told reporters, cautioning that his information was based solely on preliminary reports.


The military's mishap with anthrax comes just 11 months after researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention similarly mishandled anthrax. The researchers at a lab that is set up to handle extremely dangerous pathogens sent what they thought were dead samples of anthrax to another CDC lab that had fewer protective measures in place.

It appears that the government is awfully interested in anthrax these days for some reason. We can only speculate.

Sources:

http://www.cnn.com

http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/history/famous-cases/anthrax-amerithrax

http://www.niaid.nih.gov/topics/anthrax/pages/default.aspx

http://www.reuters.com

http://www.reuters.com
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