Oops, U.S. Military Accidentally Ships Live Anthrax All Over The Place

Oh, man, were there some red faces at the Dugway Proving Ground in Utah when it was discovered that the Army lab there had accidentally sent out live samples of anthrax to labs in six states and South Korea. Fortunately, it was just red faces, without any nausea, vomiting, or coughing up blood, so let's all count our blessings, shall we?

The anthrax samples were shipped via FedEx to seven companies in six states on April 29, a defense official told CNN Thursday. The shipments, thought to be dead, were shipped under less rigorous conditions than the live agent protocol.

CNN learned on Wednesday that a Maryland-based lab had received live samples, prompting an across-the-board urgent review to see whether any other live anthrax has been shipped.

As a precaution, four lab workers in the U.S. and 22 in Korea have been given preventative treatment because they handled the samples, although none of the workers have shown any symptoms. If Barbara Bush were available for comment, she'd probably note that workers in biological research labs tend to have very stressful, busy jobs, so this little break is working very well for them.

The samples were being sent to labs working on new methods of testing for biological weapons threats, and were supposed to have been rendered inert, but instead, the Dugway lab sent out at least some samples that were definitely ert. The problem was discovered when a commercial research lab contacted the Centers for Disease Control after discovering it was able to grow live anthrax bacilli, which probably made for some interesting vernacular exclamations among lab workers.

The Pentagon has so far been quite lucky when it comes to little mistakes with its weapons of mass destruction, like that time in 1961 when a B-52 broke apart in flight, and two nuclear bombs didn't obliterate North Carolina at all. Just don't remind the folks at Dugway Proving Grounds about that time in 1968 when open-air testing of VX nerve gas was blamed for killing some 6,000 sheep on nearby ranches. They're still touchy about that one, even if it did make for a useful plot point in Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

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Federal Express, the lucky company chosen to ship the supposedly dead samples, didn't directly confirm that it was carrying anthrax around with its usual overnight letters and tchotchkes sold on Etsy, but it did issue a statement assuring the public that:

FedEx is committed to the safe transport of all customer shipments, and our priority is the safety of our employees ... We will be working closely with the Department of Defense and the Centers for Disease Control to gather information about these shipments.

Umm, if any, that is, the spokesman hastily added.

The Pentagon and the CDC will jointly investigate the error, and said that there was no danger to the public at any time. Which, as Texas congressmoron Blake Farenthold reminded us during the Great Ebola Freakout of 2014, is how zombie movies always start, so feel free to panic if you'd like.

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We're also looking forward to seeing what the usual suspects in the ConspiraSphere make of this story; as of Thursday morning, Alex Jones's Infowars site only has a straight link to the CNN story, but you just know they're bound to start coming up with something far more creative soon. Get cracking, guys!

[CNN / Deseret News]

Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.


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