Today, CDC admits a lab worker got ill from a salmonella strain being studied. But I cannot tell what the disease was. Salmonella gastroenteritis? Typhoid fever? A complicated bloodborne infection that may affect the heart, joints, etc.? How long was the worker ill? Was this person spreading the infection via the oral-fecal route, as did Typhoid Mary and many other patients? Why did CDC only become aware of the problem after its employee was diagnosed elsewhere, and informed CDC then?
There was probably something special (particular virulence?) about this CDC-studied salmonella. CDC says there are a million cases of salmonella infection in the US yearly. Why then was this infection notable enough for nationwide publicity? Why was CDC even studying it?
However, despite making this incident public, CDC continues to withhold information on other lab mishaps, including how many lab workers were exposed or sickened by microorganisms being studied at CDC during 2013 and 2014.
Last June, USAT wrote the following after years of CDC stonewalling and claims it would take months to several years to provide documents:
For nearly three years, USA TODAY has been unable to obtain other records about safety and security issues at CDC labs in Atlanta. In June 2012 — after receiving leaked internal agency records — USA TODAY reported that CDC’s labs in Atlanta had experienced significant failures of laboratory airflow systems used to contain pathogens, as well as repeated security lapses in areas where dangerous viruses and bacteria are kept.
Sean Kaufman, a biosafety consultant who has testified before Congress, said it’s good news that mechanisms were in place to identify when a lab worker got sick. But Kaufman said he remains concerned that CDC has not addressed systemic issues with lab safety.
“Even though CDC has taken steps in the right direction, there continues to be a stream of incidents and accidents,” Kaufman said.