The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta is the subject of a congressional investigation after a potentially dangerous airflow leak at one of its labs.
That lab is a highly secured and sophisticated research lab where deadly diseases such as bird flu, monkeypox, tuberculosis and rabies are examined.
Atlanta based network, CNN learned Friday that a leak occurred on February 16, when air flowed the wrong way out of a germ lab into a clean-air corridor, rather than through the powerful HEPA filter that cleans the air. Visitors touring the building were in the clean corridor when they saw a puff of air being pushed out from the lab through a slot in a door window.
If experiments had been under way experts say unprotected people could have been exposed to deadly germs.
Small lab animals such as rats, ferrets and mice as part of its experiments with pathogens, according to CDC officials. They say animals in the lab were secured in filtered cages.
CDC officials say the lab was clean, was not active at the time, and no one got infected.
There has been at least one other safety-related incident in that same building where that air leak occurred.
The Atlanta Journal Constitution first reported that in 2008 it was discovered that a high-containment lab door was sealed with duct tape. And there questions about a possible cover-up.
In an internal e-mail, reported by USA Today, CDC biologist Kismet Scarborough said the centers "... will do anything ... to hide the fact that we have serious problems with the airflow and containment in this whole building."
CDC spokesman Tom Skinner says, "CDC will continue to take an open, transparent and inclusive approach to address any safety challenge in a manner that will ensure the safety of our workforce and the public."