Updated 2:25 p.m. Eastern Time, June 5, 2015
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is tracking which and how many research labs received shipments of live anthrax bacteria and how many people may have come into contact with the bacteria strains that were supposed to be dead.
“The investigation is ongoing. The Department of Defense has established a website where it will post regular updates about the situation,” said Jason McDonald, CDC spokesman.
So far, 52 laboratories, which included commercial companies, academic institutions and federal labs and 3 countries (Korea, Australia, Canada) received the suspect shipments. The CDC reports 31 people are being treated with antibiotics after exposure to the bacteria–8 U.S. citizens, non-DoD and 23 DoD employees.
The suspect anthrax shipments from the Department of Defense went to 18 states and 1 District – Arizona, California, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin and the District of Columbia over the last 10 years.
At this time, the CDC does not suspect any risk to the general public and is leading the investigation.
The investigation started after a private commercial lab reported they were able to grow live Bacillus anthracis from a strain that was supposed to be inactivated. The lab and the Department of Defense were working on a new diagnostic test “to identify biological threats,” according to the CDC.
Anthrax can cause severe illness in humans and animals. However, it is not contagious like a cold or flu, the CDC says. The gram-positive rod-shaped bacteria can be found in the soil.