After the Pentagon said Wednesday that an Army laboratory inadvertently distributed live samples of anthrax, a U.S. Air Force base in South Korea said that 22 personnel “may have been exposed.”
“Twenty-two personnel may have been exposed during the training event and all personnel were provided appropriate medical precautionary measures to include examinations, antibiotics and in some instances, vaccinations,” a statement from Osan Air Base said. “None of the personnel have shown any signs of possible exposure.”
As The Washington Post’s Dan Lamothe reported, the Pentagon said the suspected live anthrax samples were shipped from Dugway Proving Ground, an Army facility in Utah, using a commercial delivery service. The Pentagon, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Osan downplayed the threat.
“There is no known risk to the general public, and there are no suspected or confirmed cases of anthrax infection in potentially exposed lab workers,” a Pentagon spokesman, Col. Steve Warren, said.
Though details were not available, the sample was used “in a training laboratory environment by laboratory personnel,” Osan said, in a “self-contained contingency facility.” The facility was decontaminated “under Centers for Disease Control protocol,” and the sample was destroyed.
“Osan Air Base took prudent cautionary measures May 27, 2015, to investigate a potential exposure to a suspected sample of Anthrax,” the base said. “There is no risk to the public.”
Osan, 65 miles south of Seoul, is home to the 51st Fighter Wing, which “provides combat ready forces for close air support, air strike control, forward air control-airborne, combat search and rescue, counter air and fire, and interdiction in the defense of the Republic of Korea.”
The CDC said anthrax can be treated.
“Doctors have several options for treating patients with anthrax, including antibiotics and antitoxin,” according to the CDC’s Web site. “Patients with serious cases of anthrax will need to be hospitalized. They may require aggressive treatment, such as continuous fluid drainage and help breathing through mechanical ventilation.”
A public information officer at Osan offered no further comment. Here is the base’s complete statement:
51st Fighter Wing Public Affairs
5/27/2015 – OSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea Osan Air Base took prudent cautionary measures May 27, 2015, to investigate a potential exposure to a suspected sample of Anthrax. There is no risk to the public.
Emergency response personnel from the 51st Fighter Wing responded and destroyed the sample located in a self-contained contingency facility at Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea, after it was discovered the bacteria might not be an inert training sample as expected.
Hazardous material teams immediately cordoned off the facility, decontaminated it under Centers for Disease Control protocol, and destroyed the agent.
Twenty-two personnel may have been exposed during the training event and all personnel were provided appropriate medical precautionary measures to include examinations, antibiotics and in some instances, vaccinations. None of the personnel have shown any signs of possible exposure.
The sample which was expected to be inert and harmless was used in a training laboratory environment by laboratory personnel at Osan Air Base involved in the Joint United States Forces Korea (USFK) Portal and Integrated Threat Recognition Program. The training involved routine laboratory protocols that are in line with normal handling procedures.
The Office of the Secretary of Defense and Centers for Disease Control have been informed of the situation. The cause is under investigation.