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CDC Accidentally Ships Deadly Virus, Hopes No One Will Notice

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That wacky CDC is up to its old, potentially fatal-virus-spreading tricks again. But instead of anthrax or dengue, this time, the Centers for Disease Control brought a deadly strain of bird flu into its revolving cast of highly contagious characters. While rushing to get to a meeting, a CDC scientist accidentally tainted a tamer strain of bird flu with a far more deadly one—and then sent it out to another unsuspecting lab. Whoops.

This most recent set of hijinks took place at CDC Prevention headquarters in Atlanta in January, when a lab scientist accidentally mixed the two samples, sending what should have been a benign (at least to humans) strain of the virus to another lab. Except, you know, it wasn't. So when that very same virus concoction was given to some unsuspecting chickens as part of a USDA study in March, and all those chickens proceeded to immediately die, the USDA officials knew something wasn't right.


The CDC lab responsible for the deadly mixed sample then confirmed that, yes, that virus was actually wildly dangerous but told, well, no one. Until June, that is, when a second lab reported a similar problem and CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden was finally notified.

Apparently, the lab scientist who had originally contaminated the sample completed what should have been 90 minutes of work (with both the tame and deadly viruses) in 51 minutes, in an attempt to make the noon meeting. Whether that meeting actually did begin as scheduled, though, remains inconclusive.


To the CDC's credit, "the viral mix was at all times contained in specialized laboratories and was never a threat to the public," according to an internal report. But then that's what they said last time, too. And the time before that. Here's to hoping Ebola's not next. [AP]

Image: Shutterstock/luchschen