The director in charge of the Centers for Disease Control laboratory in Atlanta, where more than 80 scientists may have been exposed to anthrax, has been reassigned, according to Reuters.
Two anonymous sources from the CDC told Reuters that “Michael Farrell, head of the CDC’s Bioterror Rapid Response and Advanced Technology Laboratory, has been reassigned as the agency investigates the incident.” In addition to the reassignment, the CDC handed control of the investigation over to the USDA.
After initial reports just last week that 75 CDC workers “failed to follow proper procedures to inactivate the bacteria” and may have come in direct contact with live anthrax, the numbers spiked into the mid-80s over the weekend. Though the change of infection is very low, the potentially-exposed workers were given an anthrax vaccine and antibiotics.
Speaking to NBC News, CDC deputy director Dr. Ileana Arias said that “we wish we knew” exactly how the exposure happened, and defended the CDC stating, “Any lab has incidents … in every situation we have been very diligent and aggressive in identifying what caused those breaches, what caused those problems.”
On Friday, the CDC gathered their staff together for a meeting, where individuals in labs adjacent to the affected areas complained they had not been properly informed about the anthrax incident first discovered on June13, CDC spokesman Tom Skinner said.
In a Friday e-mail to staff, CDC Director Dr. Thomas Frieden apologized for delays in informing the wider CDC community about lapses in the high-profiled bioterror lab.
“We waited too long to inform the broader CDC workforce,” he wrote in the email obtained by Reuters.
Dr. Paul Meechan, director of the CDC’s environmental health and safety compliance office, first disclosed the possible anthrax exposure to Reuters last Thursday.
Atlanta CDC Director Reassigned Amid Anthrax Exposure Controversy