CDC To Hire Lab Safety Chief After Ebola, Bird Flu Mishaps

By Jade Walker

CHICAGO, Dec 31 (Reuters) – The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention plans to hire a chief of laboratory safety, a new post that has taken on more urgency after a CDC scientist was possibly exposed to Ebola in a laboratory last week.
Creating a new high-level safety position was a key recommendation of a months-long internal investigation into the mishandling of anthrax and bird flu in CDC labs this past summer, according to an internal CDC memo obtained by Reuters.
Those incidents called into question safety practices at more than 1,000 laboratory and support facilities across the CDC’s sprawling network of scientists.
CDC spokeswoman Barbara Reynolds confirmed that a search for an agency-wide chief of laboratory science and safety was under way. The search, which has not been previously reported, is being led by Dr. Rima Khabbaz, director of CDC’s Office of Infectious Diseases.
“The person selected will be empowered to identify problems, establish plans to solve them, and hold programs throughout CDC accountable for follow-up,” Reynolds said in an email.
Private laboratories that work closely with the CDC welcomed the move.
“This is going to bring a focus to lab science and safety that has been really needed for two decades,” said Scott Becker, executive director of the Association of Public Health Laboratories, a national group representing state and municipal public health laboratories.
Filling the new position, though, may seem too little, too late for at least one lab worker, who last week may have been exposed to live Ebola while working in a CDC laboratory in Atlanta.
The unidentified scientist, who was working with Ebola specimens that were supposed to have been inactivated, wore gloves and a gown but not a protective face mask or other gear recommended for working with live Ebola, the CDC said. The staffer is being monitored for signs of infection for 21 days, the disease’s incubation period.
The CDC said on Tuesday the scientist was not showing symptoms and had a “low, but not zero, risk” of …read more

Source: More Fitness

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