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86 Potential Anthrax Exposures Identified as Count Continues to Go Up

Jun 21, 2014 01:22 PM EDT

Eleven more federal employees in the United States have come forward as people who were potentially exposed to an accidental anthrax outbreak after mishandling live samples in a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lab.

On Thursday, the CDC reported the first 75 cases of potential exposure, revealing that these scientists were being monitored very closely for potential signs of the dangerous bacterial infection.

"Out of an abundance of caution, CDC is taking aggressive steps to protect the health of all involved, including providing protective courses of antibiotics for potentially exposed staff," the CDC reported in its initial release.

An ongoing investigation of potential exposure scenarios has determined that risk of infection is very low. Likewise, the chances that the disease found its way out of the lab via one of the exposed is so low that "the general public are not at risk of exposure and do not need to take any protective action"

The CDC reports that the unintentional exposure of several dozen scientists working at a CDC lab in Atlanta was discovered on June 13, and could have occurred sometime within the week prior to discovery. An investigation has revealed that the exposure first occurred after a live strain of sample anthrax was not properly deactivated and then handled by staff under the assumption that it had been.

Since then, more facility workers have come forward or been identified as potentially exposed, according to the Agence France-Presse (AFP).

The official count "may go up as more come forward," CDC spokesman Tom Skinner told the AFP.

According to Skinner, the investigation continues to look into how exactly this potential exposure  was overlooked for nearly a week.

This incident also gives ammo to critics of live viral and bacterium testing, who claim that it is inevitable that more dangerous strains currently being tested, such as the incredibly deadly Spanish flu, pose more risk than any scientific knowledge is worth.

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