House committee investigating safety lapses at CDC after lab workers exposed to anthrax
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A U.S. congressional committee said on Sunday that it will hear from half a dozen witnesses this week about dangerous lapses at federal health facilities, including one that led to the potential exposure of 84 people to live anthrax.
Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is among several government witnesses scheduled to testify at a Wednesday hearing of the House Energy and Commerce Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee, which released its witness list online.
Accompanying Frieden will be Joseph Henderson, deputy director of the CDC’s Office of Security and Emergency Preparedness.
The panel will also hear from Jere Dick, associate deputy administrator or the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and Nancy Kingsbury, a managing director of the watchdog U.S. Government Accountability Office.
Two non-government experts – Behavioral-based Improvement Solutions LLC President Sean Kaufman and Rutgers University professor Richard Ebright – will also appear, the panel said.
The CDC has blamed multiple failures by scientists, and a lack of agency-wide safety policies, for the potential exposure of lab workers to live anthrax at its Atlanta campus last month. Researchers in a high-security lab sent samples of what they thought were inactivated bacteria to colleagues in a lower-security lab, with fewer protections.
The House subcommittee, chaired by Republican Representative Tim Murphy of Pennsylvania, is trying to determine what led to that lapse as well as others including the mishandling of dangerous avian bird flu at a CDC influenza lab and the discovery of smallpox vials in an unused room at the National Institutes of Health campus in Bethesda, Maryland.
No one has fallen ill as a result of the incidents.
(Reporting by David Morgan; Editing by Eric Walsh)