75 workers in three labs at the CDC headquarters in Altanta, GA were reportedly exposed to anthrax spores during a breach in standard safety protocols earlier this month. All the employees are currently being monitored for symptoms, and have been provided with antibiotics as a precaution, although none have exhibited any symptoms of the potentially deadly infection.
"In the worst-case scenarios, literally, within a day or two of exposure, if you've inhaled spores and if they are very lethal, one begins to get ‘the standard flu symptoms’ such as high fever, and malaise," stated bio-terrorism expert Leonard Cole. "You get lazy. You feel sick. You get headaches. You get bone aches.”
According to the CDC, workers in the labs did not realize that the samples had not been inactivated, and thus did not put on adequate protective gear before handling them. None of the labs were equipped to handle live spores. However, the agency maintains that the risk of infection remains very low to its staff, and that “there is no danger to the public.”
There are three types of anthrax infection: Respiratory, which initially presents flu-like symptoms (as mentioned above) followed by pneumonia and eventual lung collapse; Gastrointestinal primarily caused by consuming anthrax-infected meat and is characterized vomiting of blood, severe diarrhea, acute inflammation of the intestinal tract, and loss of appetite. Lesions have been found in the intestines and in the mouth and throat. After the bacterium invades the bowel system, it spreads through the bloodstream throughout the body, while also continuing to produce toxins; and cutaneous (on the skin) contracted when anthrax spores enter the body through open cuts and wounds. This form is generally found mostly in people who handle infected animals or their by-products, and tends to cause boil-like skin lesions that eventually develop into ulcers with a black centers. Cutaneous anthrax is rarely fatal if treated.
The FBI is currently working with the CDC as they investigate the incident at the labs, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has vowed to take any “disciplinary action, as necessary, as well as review safety protocol with employees.”
For more information regarding anthrax, readers can contact the CDC at 1600 Clifton Rd. Atlanta, GA 30333, 800-CDC-INFO.