Pentagon: 51 labs in 17 states with questionable anthrax

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WASHINGTON  — The Pentagon may have unintentionally shipped live anthrax samples to 51 labs in 17 states and the District of Columbia, as well as three foreign countries, Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work announced Wednesday, June 3rd.

Work said he expects the numbers of labs suspected of receiving live anthrax to go up as the Pentagon continues its investigation into the shipments, some of them made via FedEx. When put in the mail, the samples were not believed to contain live samples of the disease.

There have been “no suspected or confirmed cases of anthrax infections” as a result of the shipments, Work said, explaining that the samples that were sent out had very low concentrations of the deadly disease, which could not infect the “average healthy individual.”

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“We know of no risk to the general public from these samples,” Work emphasized.

The four Defense Department laboratories that stockpile anthrax samples for research will test all previously “inactivated” samples to ensure that the anthrax is in fact dead. The department is testing over 400 batches, with live anthrax found so far in four of those batches.

“That is why the numbers may rise,” Work said, adding that it takes 10 days to test anthrax samples.

The Pentagon will investigate why the anthrax samples were not properly killed before they were shipped and what protocols and procedures failed in the process.

The press conference was the first public accounting of the investigation into the shipment of live anthrax samples, which was initially reported last week.

The Pentagon Force Protection Agency, the Pentagon’s police force, is one of the agencies that received questionable U.S. Army shipments of anthrax. That shipment now must be tested to see if it has live rather than dead pathogen.

The Pentagon police received a shipment of what was supposed to be dead anthrax agent from one of three original lots, all of which are now shown to contain live, rather than dead, anthrax.

CNN has been exclusively shown a document detailing the location of the anthrax shipments that came from three lots at Dugway Proving Ground dating back to 2007. In addition to sites within the United States, Canada, South Korea and Australia might also have received live anthrax shipments.