The Army bioterror facility in Utah which accidentally shipped out live samples of Anthrax earlier this year has been wracked with problems stemming back over a decade, according to a new Pentagon report.
Defense Secretary Ash Carter became aware of the incident back in May after a commercial Maryland lab alerted authorities that it received live bacteria. Immediately following the incident, he ordered a series of investigations and the monitoring of 21 people exposed to the spores.
The Pentagon released a report on the incident Thursday which found that live anthrax samples were shipped to a total of 86 laboratories and seven other countries. It seems clear the process used to render the anthrax inactive only works inconsistently. (RELATED: Is Your State On The List? US Military Accidentally Sends Live Anthrax To 9 States)
Officials were hoping the incident was an isolated one, but unfortunately, further investigation revealed the facility has a track record dating back to 2003 of accidentally shipping live samples to labs. The practice was only recently brought to light in May.
A total of 31 Americans have taken medication as a precaution.
Three main mistakes became clear after investigators dug deeper. First, there are no national standards for rendering anthrax samples inactive. Second, the DOD pointed out that “several factors” at Dugway Proving Ground, the bioterror facility in Utah, led to a high probability that workers would not properly identify live spores. And third, no standardized biohazard protocol exists in the DOD.
Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work called the anthrax shipments from the bioterror facility the result of “a massive institutional failure.”
“This review taught us lessons we needed to learn, and identified institutional and procedural failures we need urgently to address,” Work continued. “We are shocked by these failures. … DoD takes full responsibility for these failures, and we are implementing changes and recommending the establishment of procedures, processes and protocols that will prevent such a biohazard safety failure does not happen again.”
Work wants the Army secretary to conduct a further investigation to find out precisely who was responsible for the failures at the facility.
No infections resulted from the mishap, as anthrax is most dangerous when transmitted through the air. In this case, the facility shipped anthrax in liquid form.