by Kimberly Allen, RN
Remember the anthrax scare that blanketed the country after 9/11? Well, the labs at the Centers for disease Control and Prevention are responsible for securing US samples of anthrax as well as the plague and a number of other deadly diseases. However, numerous studies on the security of these dangerous specimens indicate that security at the CDC is seriously flawed. Further that the CDC has been repeatedly cited for it’s “gaping holes” in their security protocols. In fact the studies report that not only does the CDC not secure the lethal specimens entrusted to their care but they also do not provide adequate training to their employees that are responsible for handling them every day. In the past there have been reports of malfunctioning air flow systems and unlocked doors. This lax in security is a serious concern, especially when it concerns public health. Officials are particularly concerned because it was a similar lax in security at an Army biodefense base that gave unauthorized access to anthrax to a microbiologist named Bruce Ivans back in 2008 when he began his infamous anthrax letter attacks that killed 5 people and left another 17 seriously ill.
The inspector general report states that the CDC fails to “ensure the physical security of bioterror agents or restrict access to approved individuals”. The report also states that some employee’s are provided access to the work areas for bioterror agent without receiving the required training. It further reports that people other than those that have been approved have accepted and signed for packages containing potential bioterror agents that were sent from other labs. Because of national security exactly which germs and/or toxins which are designated as “select agents” are stored in the labs at the CDC, however, they are all deadly pathogens and are known to include the Ebola virus, and monkey virus as well as the toxins that cause botulism and ricin as well as anthrax and the plague.
The inspector general of the Department of Health and Human Services states that “these weaknesses could have compromised the CDC’s ability to safeguard select agents from accidental or intentional loss and to ensure the safety of individuals”. this has many people in the government as well as the public concerned that the country is in more danger from a biochemical attack from within rather than from outside the country.
So what can you do to prepare in case of a bio terrorist attack? The CDC and the American Red Cross have joined together to provide guidance and answer questions. There are 3 steps they recommend you take to prepare for an emergent event.
1. Prepare a kit. have a waterproof, sealable container that you fill with drinking water and non-perishable foods as well as other disaster supplies like flashlights, batteries, blankets etc. Basic supplies that allows you to provide for your family.
2. Develop a family disaster plan. Families that work together as a team and prepare in advance are better equipped to cope with a disaster.
3. Become informed. Learn how to shelter in place and understand the meaning of quarantine and isolation. It’s also important to develop good coping skills to help all in the family to cope with a disaster.
The CDC and the American Red Cross have web sites available to answer questions and assist you with step by step guidance on measures you can take to protect yourself and your family.
Kimberly Allen is a registered nurse with an AND in nursing. She has worked in ACF, LCF and psychiatric facilities, although she spent most of her career as a home health expert. She is now a regular contributor to HealthAndFitnessTalk.com, dispensing advice and knowledge about medical issues and questions. You can reach her with any comments or questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.