WASHINGTON, June 20 (Xinhua) -- Up to 84 Atlanta-based workers for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) may have been unintentionally exposed to anthrax, an acute disease caused by the bacterium Bacillus anthracis, a spokesman for the agency said Friday.
The unintentional exposure was discovered on June 13, and CDC spokesman Benjamin Haynes said in an email to Xinhua that the agency's Occupational Health Clinic "has seen 54 employees out of 84 employees identified."
Of the 54 who have already been identified, Haynes said 32 began or continued to take an antibiotic called Cipro, while 20 began to take another antibiotic called Doxy. Only two refused oral antibiotic treatment, he said.
In addition, 27 CDC workers have received the anthrax vaccine while 19 refused vaccine, the CDC said.
The good news is that "none have presented with signs or symptoms," Haynes said, noting that they "will continue to be monitored."
The CDC said in a statement that early reports show that the incident occurred "after established safety practices were not followed."
The statement said anthrax samples from a high-level biosafety lab were not adequately inactivated before they were moved to labs that were not equipped to handle live anthrax.
"Workers (in three CDC labs at lower biosafety levels), believing the samples were inactivated, were not wearing adequate personal protective equipment while handling the material," it said.
The agency said lab and hallway areas have been decontaminated and labs will be re-opened when safe to operate.
"CDC continues its internal review to determine why validated procedures were not used by the lab," it said. "Given that CDC expert protocols were not followed, disciplinary action(s) will be taken as necessary."