When dangerous diseases like Ebola and the Zika virus infect large populations of people and becomes a threat to public health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) takes the lead in responding to them. Microbes that fall into the highest levels of containment – Biosafety Levels (BSL) three and four – are easily transmissible in the air with little or no treatment available (CDC, “Recognizing Biosafety Levels”). To fight against such threats, the CDC conducts critical research to “tracking disease and finding out what is making people sick and the most effective ways to prevent it” (CDC, “Mission, Role, and Pledge”).
In recent news, however, federal agencies like the CDC are under scrutiny for mishandling samples of infectious pathogens. In 2014, news reports emerged of the CDC accidentally sending live samples of Ebola to a lower level facility and discovering forgotten vials of smallpox in a cardboard box in a facility owned by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) (Young and Penzenstadler, “Inside America’s secretive biolabs”). Violations of biosafety, or precautions taken to reduce the risk of infecting laboratorians and the general public with contagious diseases, put the public’s and workers’ health at risk (CDC, “Recognizing Biosafety Levels”). Without a doubt, pushing to enforce regulation and increasing worker accountability should resolve the issue of laboratorians not following standard protocol and the lack of transparency in research facilities.
Though the risk is minimal, an accidental outbreak of a lethal microbe could spell a disaster towards public health. In 1977, the H1N1 flu strain was genetically similar to the sample that disappeared around 1957 and researcher...
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...be (“Recognizing Biosafety Levels”). In this case, the worker’s faulty respirator was supposed to provide them with clean air from a tank, but the faulty hose exposed them to contaminated air.
When handling vials containing infectious diseases, standard procedures must be strictly followed to prevent any accidental contamination with other people. However, this is not always the case. Richard Din, a University of Chicago scientist, was infected with “a weakened strain of plague bacteria” and died; upon invesitigation, the findings were daunting: Din and his colleagues were “manipulating specimens of dangerous bacteria out on tabletops – not inside biosafety cabinets” (Young and Penzenstadler, “Inside America’s secretive biolabs”). This incident brings up the question if researchers who work in the laboratories receive training on how to use the equipment available.
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