While many states across the country have health departments where bacteria and viruses are tested, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is the national headquarters for public health. Since local and national laboratories work with dangerous and hazardous materials on a daily basis, scientists must follow certain protocol in order to prevent the spread and contamination of bacteria. Not only are these safety procedures in place to protect laboratory workers, but they keep the general population safe as well.
When USA Today investigators looked into the lab practices of private and public research labs across the nation, they discovered hundreds of violations and incidents that many institutions were trying to keep secret. Researchers obtained this information under the Freedom of Information Act, and although they received a 503-page report, officials had blacked out the names of the bacteria and viruses that were involved in the incidents.
In one case, a lab worker working with the Ebola virus was wearing a biohazard level 4 spacesuit in order to prevent the spread of this deadly virus. While he was working, the air hose on his suit became disconnected, which could have led to inhalation of the airborne pathogens and possible contamination. In another incident, a box of influenza specimens was lost a CDC lab, despite procedures that were in place to prevent this potentially dangerous loss.
Hundreds of other situations involving finger sticks, equipment malfunctions and toxic exposure in the workplace could have catastrophic outcomes. An attorney in Iowa may be crucial when workers have been exposed to hazardous material that has endangered their health.
Source: USA Today, “CDC keeps details secret of laboratory mishaps with deadly viruses, bacteria,” Alison Young, Jan. 4, 2017.