ships live anthrax in blunder

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US officials are investigating after the Pentagon mistakenly shipped live anthrax spores to government and commercial laboratories in as many as nine states, as well as one overseas.

They had expected to receive dead spores.

“At this time we do not suspect any risk to the general public,” Centres for Disease Control and Prevention spokeswoman Kathy Harben said.

The suspected live anthrax samples were shipped from Dugway Proving Ground, an Army facility in Utah, using a commercial delivery service, said Pentagon spokesman, Col Steve Warren.

He said the government has confirmed one recipient, a laboratory in Maryland, received live spores. It is suspected, but not yet confirmed, that anthrax sent to labs in as many as eight other states also contained live spores.

Later he said an anthrax sample from the same batch at Dugway also was sent to a US military laboratory at Osan air base in South Korea; no personnel there have shown signs of exposure and the sample was destroyed.

“There is no known risk to the general public, and there are no suspected or confirmed cases of anthrax infection in potentially exposed lab workers,” he said.

A US official said four people in three commercial labs had worked with the suspect anthrax samples and the CDC has recommended the four be provided “post-exposure prophylaxis”, or preventive treatment.

The anthrax samples were shipped to labs in Texas, Maryland, Wisconsin, Delaware, New Jersey, Tennessee, New York, California and Virginia.

The Defence Department has halted the shipments.