WASHINGTON — The head of the federal government’s public health laboratories in Atlanta told Congress yesterday that researchers mishandled live anthrax and other deadly pathogens in the past because agency officials failed to see a broad pattern of safety lapses.
In the past, officials of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention focused too narrowly on responding to specific incidents at individual laboratories without addressing more systemic issues.
“We missed a critical pattern,” said CDC Director Thomas Frieden. “And the pattern is an insufficient culture of safety.”
Frieden testified before an oversight subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee that focused on laboratory safety after more than 80 CDC employees might have been exposed to live anthrax last month, when samples were transferred from one lab to other CDC labs.