Sen. Nelson Wants Quick Answers On Anthrax
By Matt O'Hern // May 29, 2015
WASHINGTON D.C. — A senior member of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee is demanding immediate answers of the Army after it inadvertently shipped live anthrax reportedly to a number of labs in nine states and one in South Korea.
U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) asked for a full explanation and briefing in a letter today to Secretary of the Army John McHugh.
“While the Army says it is confident no one has been harmed, it needs to tell us what is being done immediately to prevent this from happening again,” Nelson wrote.
The federal government has run an anthrax-vaccine program since the late 1990s. And the Army is known to maintain samples for testing and developing vaccines in the event that U.S. troops and personnel are attacked with the dangerous pathogen.
The military regularly gives soon-to-be-deployed service members an anthrax vaccination, especially if they’re headed to a high-risk region such as the Persian Gulf or Korean Peninsula.
News reports Thursday say the Army had intended to send inactive anthrax to the various labs. But for some reason the deactivation procedures did not work in at least some instances.
The incident has so far spurred investigations by the Army and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention based in Atlanta.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials said Thursday that as many as 18 labs around the country received live anthrax samples.
Here’s a copy of Nelson’s letter:
May 28, 2015
The Honorable John McHugh
Secretary of Army
101 Army Pentagon
Washington, D.C. 20310
Dear Secretary McHugh:
I am deeply concerned about the shipping of live anthrax samples from Dugway Proving Ground to as many 18 other labs causing at least 22 personnel to receive treatment. This incident represents a serious breach of trust in the United States Army’s obligation to keep our citizens and service members safe. Moreover, the shipments to a South Korea air base weaken the United States’ credibility as a global leader in chemical weapons control.
I therefore insist that the Army brief me and my staff on this incident at the earliest possible opportunity. Specifically, it is crucial that the Department of Army explain the nature and scope of these biological weapons-related activities and the measures used to keep the public and its personnel safe. Additionally, the Department should also discuss its standards for how samples are shipped to other labs.
Equally important, the Department must explain what steps were taken to contain the release of these samples and provide treatment to any affected service members. While the Army says it is confident no one has been harmed, it needs to tell us what is being done immediately to prevent this from happening again.