For some reason, an important story is barely getting covered by the major TV news. Live (viable) anthrax was inadvertently shipped to about 200 labs, both in and outside the US, from Dugway Proving Ground, an Army lab in Utah. These shipments went out for years. There are also questions about the mishandling of other agents.
During the House oversight hearing on July 28th, the following question was posed, “Did these active agents get into the wrong hands?” But to answer that question, all the anthrax needs to be tracked down. Diana DeGette (D-CO): “This is really important. Why did these problems all come out of this one lab?” According to testimony offered at the hearing, there seems to be a lack of standardization when it comes to the procedure employed to make anthrax non-viable. The system Dugway used failed spectacularly.
The latest on this story from USA Today:
“Shipping giant FedEx no longer is willing to transport packages containing research specimens of potential bioterror pathogens…FedEx’s refusal to transport these kinds of specimens is drawing concern among officials at major laboratories, who say it was the primary way they sent and received critical samples used to diagnose diseases and for the development of vaccines, treatments, tests and detection equipment. Neither UPS nor the U.S. Postal Service will transport the specimens… ‘It potentially is a devastating blow,’ said James Le Duc, director of the Galveston National Laboratory in Texas… ‘Everybody is kind of dumbfounded that this has happened,’ Le Duc said.”
Some background on Dugway from Wikipedia:
“Dugway’s mission is to test biological and chemical weapon defense systems in a secure and isolated environment…In 1941, the US Army Chemical Warfare Service determined it needed a testing facility…Testing commenced in the summer of 1942…Since its founding in 1941, much of the activity at Dugway Proving Ground has been a closely guarded secret. Activities at Dugway included aerial nerve agent testing. According to reports from New Scientist, Dugway was still producing quantities of anthrax spores as late as 2015, more than four decades after the United States renounced biological weapons, and shipping the material to military bases and military contractors around the globe…GAO issued a report on September 28, 1994, which stated that between 1940 and 1974, DOD and other national security agencies studied ‘hundreds, perhaps thousands’ of weapons tests and experiments involving hazardous substances. The quote from the study: ‘For several decades, Dugway has been the site of testing for various chemical and biological agents. From 1951 through 1969, hundreds, perhaps thousands of open-air tests using bacteria and viruses that cause disease in human, animals, and plants were conducted at Dugway… It is unknown how many people in the surrounding vicinity were also exposed to potentially harmful agents used in open-air tests at Dugway.'”
This is a major story. Given its history and mission, Dugway should have known better. The good news is that nobody seems to have gotten infected. Still, all of the anthrax needs to be accounted for.