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Army chief '99.9 percent' confident no one was harmed by anthrax

The Hill logo The Hill 5/28/2015 Martin Matishak
Military accidentally ships live anthrax to Maryland lab © Provided by The Hill Military accidentally ships live anthrax to Maryland lab

The Army’s top officer says he is confident that the accidental shipment of live anthrax to labs in nine states and South Korea did not endanger any lives. 

“I’m 99.9 percent confident that nobody’s in danger,” Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno said Thursday during a Defense Writers Group breakfast.

Based on the initial study the service has conducted of the incident, Odierno said standard procedures were followed in the shipment.

“Best I can tell, there was not human error,” he said.

On Wednesday, a Defense Department official said that an anthrax sample was prepared at the Dugway Army facility in Utah as part of routine research, then shipped to the other laboratories. All of the samples were supposed to be dead or inactive.

The facilities are located in Texas, Maryland, Wisconsin, Delaware, New Jersey, Tennessee, New York, California and Virginia.

The deadly spores were supposed to have been killed by being irradiated. But at least one facility, in Maryland, reported receiving spores that were still alive.

Odierno stressed that the military is coordinating with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to contain the samples.

He said the CDC specifically would look at “do we have to change the procedures that in place just to make sure we’re careful” and ensure “even this minute amount would not get out again.”

Odierno said the service's procedures for handling the deadly virus had been in place for “a long time” but that this was the first incident where the irradiation treatment may not have rendered it inert.

“What we don’t know yet is the analysis of that, of the gamma radiation piece,” he told reporters. “That’s what we have to find out.”

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