Surveillance, diagnostics unaffected by lab closures

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The federal laboratory closures, which followed mistakes involving biological materials, will not affect surveillance or diagnostic reference testing.

A report and a related announcement published July 11 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicate no employees were known to have been infected following incidents this summer involving Bacillus anthracis and highly pathogenic H5N1 influenza virus. But the agency temporarily closed an influenza laboratory and implemented a moratorium on transfer of pathogens, specimens, and other biological materials from its most secure laboratories.

The agency’s response included halting work at its Bioterrorism Rapid Response and Technology Laboratory pending changes that could prevent “similar future incidents,” a CDC announcement states. Benjamin N. Haynes, a spokesman for the CDC Infectious Disease Team, said the action halted distribution of testing materials to state laboratories in the Laboratory Response Network that could be used to respond to emergencies involving biological or chemical agents.

Haynes said the agency was endeavoring to resume work in the affected laboratories and increase safety in all laboratories.

The July report indicates that, in June, researchers failed to ensure B anthracis specimens were inactivated before transferring them to a less secure laboratory. In July, CDC administrators learned that an H9N2 avian influenza culture that had been shipped in March to Department of Agriculture poultry researchers was contaminated with the highly pathogenic H5N1 influenza virus.

The CDC document “Report on the potential exposure to anthrax,”  includes an appendix on the inadvertent shipment of H5N1 virus.