At left: A hematoxylin and eosin (H&E)-stained tissue sample under 125X magnification reveals some of the changes found in a human skin tissue sample from the site of a smallpox lesion. At right, the smallpox virus shown in a 1975 electronmicrograph. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/Associalted Press)
Chris Cillizza
Reporter July 18, 2014

I don’t know about you, but I like my deadly pathogens accounted for by the people who are in charge of that sort of thing.

That’s why the news coming out of the Food and Drug Administration this past week was so troubling. (And yes, I have seen “Contagion” too many times.)

Chris Cillizza writes “The Fix,” a politics blog for the Washington Post. He also covers the White House. View Archive

Turns out that the FDA discovered smallpox, the virus behind dengue fever, a bacteria that causes spotted fever, and something called Q fever (sounds horrible) just sitting in a cold-storage room — okay, they were in vials, but still — at the National Institutes of Health in Maryland.

“The reasons why these samples went unnoticed for this long is something that we’re actively trying to understand,” said Peter Marks, the deputy director of the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research. Um, no duh.

Those revelations came in the same week that Thomas Frieden, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, testified on Capitol Hill about the 80 CDC employees who may have been exposed to live anthrax bacteria back in June. He added that there had been a number of incidents of mishandling potentially deadly viruses over the past decade at the organization.

“We missed a critical pattern,” Frieden said. “And the pattern is an insufficient culture of safety.” Again, no duh.

A reminder: These are the people — and the organizations — we entrust with handling the deadliest viruses in the world because they’re supposedly so careful and diligent about how they do their jobs. Or not.

The FDA and the CDC, for ensuring that I will have nightmares for weeks, you had the worst week in Washington. Congrats, or something.

Have a candidate for the worst week in Washington? E-mail Chris Cillizza at chris.cillizza@washpost.com.

Each week, Chris Cillizza awards the Worst Week in Washington to an inhabitant of Planet Beltway who stands out for all the wrong reasons. You can check out previous winners or e-mail Cillizza with candidates. You can also read more from Outlook and follow our updates on Facebook and Twitter.