CDC inspections have raised red flags over the handling of deadly viruses being kept in government labs.
Samples of some of the most deadly viruses and toxins known to man are kept locked away in research laboratories around the world in the hope that something can be learned from them, a practice that would seem to require some pretty stringent security protocols.
As it happens however recent enquiries in to the storage, cataloging and transportation of these samples suggest that safety and security standards have been sorely lacking.
Anthrax contamination in particular has been found at a lab in Utah while samples of a bacteria capable of causing the plague have been under renewed investigation due to improper handling.
“We’re trying to be as forthcoming as we can be right now without alarming the public,” said Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook who maintains that the issue does not pose a health risk.
“One of the things they’re doing right now is trying to assess whether any of these substances, first of all, pose any sort of threat; second of all, whether these substances were shipped to any other laboratories.”
The investigation was initiated earlier this year when it was revealed that samples of anthrax had been shipped from the Pentagon’s labs to 86 other laboratories around the world.
The Yersinia pestis bacteria, one of the other samples being investigated, is transmitted by fleas and rodents and was responsible for the Black Death which decimated Europe in the 14th century.
It isn’t clear what other samples, if any, were improperly handled in relation to the case.