The U.S. military's Dugway Proving Grounds in Utah mistakenly sent a live sample of the deadly anthrax bacteria to a civilian lab in Maryland and possibly other states, the Pentagon said Wednesday.
In a statement, the Defense Department said that Dugway "inadvertently transferred a sample containing live anthrax" but added that "there is no known risk to the general public and there are no suspected or confirmed cases" of anthrax infection.
Speaking on background, a Pentagon official said that the sample sent to Maryland was part of a larger sample that was sent to civilian labs in Maryland, California, New York, Texas, New Jersey, Tennessee, Virginia, Wisconsin and Delaware. The larger sample was irradiated at Dugway with the intent to kill the live anthrax bacteria before been shipped.
The labs were to use the supposedly dead anthrax samples for research, but "one of those samples has since popped up hot" at the undisclosed site of the lab in Maryland, the official said.
The Maryland lab immediately contacted the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, which is now collecting the samples from all the states for testing, the official said. He acknowledged the possibility that there could be live samples at the labs in other states.
The Dugway Proving Ground, a vast military facility about the size of Rhode Island, has long been the military's main center for testing chemical and biological weapons. In 2011, Dugway went on lockdown for two days when a vial of VX nerve agent could not be located.
-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@military.com.