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Exposure to anthrax feared for dozens of scientists in Atlanta

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By Reuters
Thursday, June 19, 2014, 8:15 p.m.

As many as 75 scientists working in federal government laboratories in Atlanta may have been exposed to live anthrax bacteria and are being offered treatment to prevent infection from the deadly organism, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Thursday.

The potential exposure occurred when researchers working in a high-level bio-security laboratory at the agency's Atlanta campus failed to follow proper procedures to inactivate the bacteria. They then transferred the samples, which may have contained live bacteria, to lower-security CDC labs not equipped to handle live anthrax.

Two of the three labs conducted research that may have aerosolized the spores, the CDC said. Environmental sampling was done, and the lab areas are closed until decontamination is complete.

Dr. Paul Meechan, director of the environmental health and safety compliance office at the CDC, said the agency discovered the potential exposure on June 13 and immediately began contacting individuals working in the labs who may have unknowingly handled live anthrax bacteria.

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