In the wake of back-to-back incidents involving dangerous materials, CDC officials say some scientists have become complacent about following safety rules.
A report released Monday found the Atlanta-based federal health laboratories used expired disinfectants and transferred dangerous germs in Ziploc bags after dozens of CDC employees were exposed to live anthrax bacteria in June.
The report follows an announcement last week that a dangerous strand of the H5N1 bird flu had been combined with a fairly benign flu sample.
The agency has also revealed that employees delayed notifying authorities about the breaches.
CDC spokesman Tom Skinner says the incidents show the culture of safety has eroded and the agency must do a better job of documenting procedures.
So far, the missteps haven’t resulted in any deaths or illness, but Skinner says the breaches should never have happened. And they show the scientists’ familiarity with dangerous bacteria is causing some of them to be lax about following procedures.
“It can lead to sort of a sense of complacency, ‘I know what I’m doing, I do it so much I just can’t make mistakes’ and that’s just the wrong attitude to have,” said Skinner.
Skinner says the CDC is still investigating the incidents. But he said the agency plans to ask employees to begin documenting that they are following safety procedures.