Some Knucklehead In the Pentagon Accidentally Shipped Live Anthrax

Illustration for article titled Some Knucklehead In the Pentagon Accidentally Shipped Live Anthrax

Some bonehead at an Defense Department lab accidentally shipped live anthrax spores to government and commercial recipients through a commercial shipping service. What a goof!


They were supposed to be shipments of dead anthrax spores, but there was a mix-up. A lab in Maryland already received the package of potentially fatal biological weapons. Labs in Texas, Wisconsin, Delaware, New Jersey, Tennessee, New York, California, Virginia, and the Osan air base in South Korea were also shipped anthrax. Awkward!

Four people have been treated as a precaution for exposure to anthrax, and the Defense Department stopped all pending shipments until it completes an investigation.

You’d think that a donkey move like this would only happen once, but accidentally sending potentially fatal lab samples is a thing that happens with surprising frequency. The Center for Disease Control accidentally mailed a deadly strain of bird flu last year. Then vials of smallpox mysteriously appeared in a Maryland lab, begging the question: How the hell did no one notice that vials of smallbox went missing?

It looks like “paying close attention and making sure you don’t expose people to serious illnesses” is fairly low on the necessary steps to take while handling potentially catastrophic biohazards. Shortly after finding the abandoned smallpox, the FDA admitted it also found over 300 vials of various scary pathogens, including dengue fever. And the US doesn’t have a monopoly on sending out bioweapons by mistake: U.K. government lab inadvertently mailed live anthrax out back in 2012, because someone grabbed the wrong tubes.

So back to whatever chucklegoof made the wacky anthrax mess-up: They’re just one in a disturbingly long line of government handlers of potent bioweapons to adopt a rather CASUAL attitude over where their harmful charges end up.


Image: Shutterstock/luchschen

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What’s smallbox?