US military accidentally ships live ‘anthrax’

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Washington: Jeopardizing millions of life, the US military mistakenly sent live anthrax bacteria to laboratories in nine US states and a US air base in South Korea, after apparently failing to properly inactivate the bacteria last year, US officials said on Wednesday.

The Pentagon said there was no known suspected infection or risk to the public. But four US civilians have been started on preventive measures called post-exposure prophylaxis, which usually includes the anthrax vaccine, antibiotics or both.

Twenty-two personnel at the base in South Korea were also given precautionary medical measures although none have shown sign of exposure, the US military said.

The four in the United States face “minimal” risk, said Jason McDonald, a spokesman for the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which has begun an investigation of the incident. They had been “doing procedures that sent the agent into the air,” he said.

When anthrax becomes airborne, it can cause a deadly illness called inhalation anthrax. That occurred in 2001, when anthrax sent through the US mail to government and media targets killed five people.

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