A laboratory technician in Atlanta may have been exposed to the Ebola virus, reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
A small amount of material from an Ebola virus experiment that was transported from one lab to another may have contained live virus. The material was on a sealed plate but should not have been moved into the second laboratory, the CDC said in a statement.
There was no exposure outside the secure laboratory and no exposure or risk to the public, the CDC says. The event was discovered by the laboratory scientists Tuesday.
The event is under internal investigation by CDC, was reported to Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia Burwell, and reporting to the internal and national Select Agent Programs has been initiated. CDC will provide a report on the event when the investigation concludes. The laboratory area had already been decontaminated and the material destroyed as a routine procedure before the error was identified. The laboratory was decontaminated for a second time, and is now closed.
"I am troubled by this incident in our Ebola research laboratory in Atlanta," CDC Director Tom Frieden said in the statement. "We are monitoring the health of one technician who could possibly have been exposed and I have directed that there be a full review of every aspect of the incident and that CDC take all necessary measures.
This is the latest in a series of missteps by the CDC. The CDC is considered one of the world's premier public health agencies and its labs house some of the most deadly pathogens on the planet, including ebola, SARS, monkeypox and dangerous strains of flu.
The labs have been repeatedly cited in private government audits for failing to properly secure bioterror agents, according to "restricted" government watchdog reports obtained by USA TODAY earlier this year.
The CDC said in August that about 86 Atlanta-based staff were potentially exposed to live anthrax bacteria. The potential anthrax exposure, which the agency said was discovered June 13, involved bacterial plates of anthrax samples that did not undergo an effective procedure to inactivate the bacteria.
In 2012, USA TODAY reported that a state-of-the-art $214 million lab building on the agency's main campus in Atlanta had experienced repeated problems with airflow systems designed to help prevent the release of infectious agents, government documents and internal e-mails showed.
A 2010 report said auditors couldn't verify that 10 of 30 employees sampled had required training. A 2009 report said the CDC labs "did not provide biosafety and security training to 88 of 168 approved individuals" before they were given access to work areas for bioterror agents.