CDC Scientist Accidentally Ships Deadly Virus, Hopes No One Will Notice

By Ashley Feinberg on at

That wacky Center for Disease Control (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. Because 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 into the world. 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 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 that handled the sample then confirmed that, yes, that virus was actually wildly deadly, and then told absolutely no one. Until June, that is, when a second CDC 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 in 51 minutes in an attempt to make a meeting on time. Whether that meeting actually did begin as scheduled, though, remains inconclusive.

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

Image: Shutterstock/Kiselev Andrey Valerevich