CDC bioterror lab chief resigns, was reassigned after anthrax scare

Former head of bioterror lab involved in CDC anthrax incident resigns

The director who oversaw a government bioterror lab involved in the potential exposure of dozens of workers to anthrax resigned Tuesday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has confirmed.

Michael Farrell, head of the CDC’s Bioterror Rapid Response and Advanced Technology Laboratory, was reassigned last month amid fallout of revelations that the deadly pathogen was mishandled, potentially exposing dozens of workers.

Farrell had held the post since 2009, said CDC spokesman Benjamin Haynes.

The Atlanta-based CDC, one of the government’s top health and research agencies, announced in June that there had been a problem at its main bioterrorism response lab and that dozens of workers could have been exposed to deadly toxins.

An internal investigation revealed five incidents over the last decade involving anthrax, botulism and a deadly strain of the avian flu. The agency announced this month that it had shuttered two labs and placed a moratorium on shipping all deadly pathogens.

Appearing before a congressional panel last week, CDC Director Thomas Frieden said the safety lapses “should never have happened.”

“We need to greatly improve the culture of safety and I’m overseeing sweeping measures to improve that culture of safety,” Frieden said.

The problems, which included storing anthrax in unlocked refrigerators, transferring dangerous materials in plastic bags and using expired disinfectants, were detailed in a memo released by the CDC and by another investigation initiated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

According to the USDA findings, some of the potentially exposed lab workers were not examined by a CDC clinic for several days.

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Copyright © 2018, Los Angeles Times


2:29 p.m.: This story was updated to include information that Farrell resigned Tuesday.

This story was originally published at 10:42 a.m.

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