2007 Foot and Mouth Disease Outbreak in the UK: Could it Happen Here?
By Karen Nowak
The small outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease in Surrey, England this month strongly appears linked to the British Pribright Research Lab, a site which is shared by Merial, an American pharmaceutical company, which manufacturers FMD vaccine. The first farm infected is 3 miles ‘downwind’ of the Pribright site.
Below is a statement from Defra, the British version of our USDA:
"It is most similar to strains used in vaccine production, including at the Pirbright site shared by Merial and the Institute of Animal Health," said a Defra statement, adding that this particular strain was used in a batch of vaccine made by Merial last month. Defra has also stated that the focus of their investigation will be that the virus was airborne.
How does this relate to the USA?The USDA’s research facility, Plum Island, is located just 3 miles off the tip of Long Island in New York. The Army performed wind tests on Plum Island in 1951, a full year before Plum Island was officially “selected” as the site for this facility by the USDA. They found the prevailing winds from the southwest, which would allow any pathogens that might escape from tests to blow east – away from the mainland USA – or south, into Gardiner’s Bay, where they would dissipate. At least in theory! In reality, if the wind blows the wrong way, the fallout zone is the Hampton’s, the Long Island Expressway and coastal Connecticut.
What they totally ignored was the presence of wildlife on that island – affectionately known as ‘Pest Island’ by the locals on the tip of Long Island.
Plum Island lies in the middle of the Atlantic flyway. Birds migrate between breeding grounds and winter homes from the Caribbean to the Florida coast then up the east coast to as far as Greenland. Retired Plum Island scientists Jim and Carol House have documented 140 different species of birds on Plum Island. The flocks of Canadian Geese alone are massive. Countless numbers of birds regularly fly between Plum Island, Long Island and coastal Connecticut.
White tailed deer regularly swim across the 2 mile stretch of Plum Gut, which separates Plum Island from Long Island. When biosecurity was taken seriously in the early 1950’s, deer were shot on sight by trained snipers. Even dogs that set foot on the beaches of Plum Island with their owners were seized and euthanized! By the early 1970’s such strict biosecurity measures had become a thing of the past. Deer swim back and forth between Plum Island and Long Island and/or coastal Connecticut unabated.
Last, there are loads of mosquitoes, ticks and flies on Plum Island, who can easily ‘hitch a ride’ on the ferry’s which run regularly between Plum Island, Long Island and Connecticut.
In 1952, the U.S. Army Chemical Corps constructed a biological research laboratory. It was reportedly never used, although that claim is refuted by attorney and author Michael Christopher Carroll in his 2004 book “Lab 257: The Disturbing Story of the Government’s Secret Plum Island Germ Laboratory”. Congress transferred all of Plum Island to USDA in 1954 for the purpose of researching and diagnosing animal diseases from other countries, including foot-and-mouth disease. Some of their original strains came from the Pirbright research facility in England.
Is Plum Island Secure?
The reality is that Plum Island has had safety and security issues for decades. In 1988, Plum Island made OSHA’s “High Hazards List of Unsafe Workplace”. The security force dropped from 34 to 11 people to cover 24 hours a day/7 days a week due to budget constraints after the monies appropriated by Congress were directed to other programs on the island. Plum Island was named in the December 2002 National Resources Defense Council's "Dirty Dozen" list of the 12 worst polluters in New York and New Jersey.
Many services on the island have been outsourced to private companies with little government oversight. Numerous, numerous problems with building maintenance and construction have been cited over the years.
I will quote some of the problems found by the General Accountability Office and contained in their September 2003 report: GAO-03-847 Combating Bioterrorism: Actions Needed to Improve Security at Plum Island Animal Disease Center:
“When USDA contracted with Sandia in October 2001, Sandia evaluated the effectiveness of security at the Plum Island Animal Disease Center and four other USDA laboratories. Using a risk management approach, USDA first identified generic lists of assets, risks, and threats for all five laboratories. Sandia then used USDA’s generic threat definitions to assess the security and vulnerabilities at each laboratory. Sandia officials found that Plum Island’s existing security system was inadequate for protecting against the generic threats that USDA had selected and that it required significant improvement.”
The hair-raising point in this section on page 10 is quoted below:
“Sandia officials also found that the biocontainment building was not designed to be a highly secure facility. USDA and Sandia agreed, however, that modifying the facility to withstand an assault would be cost-prohibitive and that, because pathogens occur naturally and are available at other laboratories throughout the world, the risk that a terrorist would try to steal them from Plum Island was not perceived as significant (and their perception has not changed). Consequently, Sandia recommended a limited physical security system designed to deter and detect a security breach and, with assistance from local law enforcement, respond to incidents exceeding the capability of the guard force on the island.”
And on page 11:
“Before the September 2001 terrorist attacks, the Plum Island Animal Disease Center, like many other federal laboratories, was less conscious of security and focused primarily on the safety of its programs and operations. Since then, USDA intensified its focus on security and has taken strides in developing and installing a security system. However, Plum Island remains vulnerable to security breaches because its security arrangements are incomplete and limited.” ‘
Accidents’ on Plum Island with FMD
There have been 3 documented incidences of FMD escaping from one of the laboratory rooms on Plum Island.
The first was on September 15th, 1978 and is thoroughly documented by Michael Christopher Carroll in his book “Lab 257: The Disturbing Story of the Government’s Secret Plum Island Germ Laboratory”. An investigation following this outbreak documented numerous safety problems within the facility. The incinerator was found to be leaking air from a highly contaminated area to the outside. Air filtering units in the roof of the lab were found to have gaps up to ¾ of an inch. It was estimated that “no less than 750,000 viruses could be exiting the building”. Electricians had wired safety fans backwards, resulting in inadequate negative pressure – required to keep pathogens IN the room. The USDA’s own safety officer issued this conclusion in his report “Recommend that Lab 101 not be considered as a safe facility in which to do work on exotic disease agents”. Similar problems were found with other buildings on Plum Island, including water and sewage leaks, excavation of possibly contaminated dirt to the area where the first animals became infected. It is important to note that a year later, many of the above problems had not been corrected yet research continued!
Two additional outbreaks of FMD occurred in June 24th and July 19th of 2004. According to an August 22nd, 2004 article in the NY Times by John Rather, the first incident involved 2 cattle. The cattle were found to be infected with a strain of FMD that was different from the strain they had been vaccinated against as part of a safety trial. The second incident involved 4 pigs. What is most troubling about the 2nd incident is that these pigs were not being used for FMD research. How did this happen? Were the significant problems found after the 1978 incident ever corrected? That question has never been answered.
Plum Island experienced a power failure in December 2002 when its backup generators failed. Fortunately, this time it lasted only 3 hours. In August 1991, Lab 257 on Plum Island experienced a power failure lasting 32 hours during Hurricane Bob! The events that occurred in Lab 257 during those 32 hours read like something out of a Robin Cook novel. The sewage tank began to rapidly fill. With no power, the overflow could not be directed to the 2nd sewage tank. It overflowed onto the floor, spilling contaminted waste from the lab animals - all infected with various viruses. The freezers, housing decades worth of dangerous pathogens, failed and began thawing. The hermetic seals on the doors of the 'hot rooms' failed, allowing contaminated air and yet more contaminated sewage to flow into the rest of the building. That no pathogens eventually found their way to mainland USA following that hurricane was nothing short of miraculous. At least 2 of the workers trapped in Lab 257 that night developed 'mystery illnesses'. The management of Plum Island did not cooperate with the medical professionals who treated them. In fact, the management of Plum Island continued to deny that a power failure ever occurred.
While no one can prevent the damage from a hurricane, it is important to note that the management of Plum Island were aware of the potential problem for a full 3 months before the hurricane hit and never ensured the power system was repaired. The Plum Island Director and his facility manager deemed the repair ($70,000) "too expensive" yet they invested money from the 1991 budget for a new ferry and a gym! Maintenance employees of Plum Island reported that management did not follow a single procedure in their own Emergency Preparedness manual when warning of the impending hurricane was received.
The Dept of Homeland Security took over administration of Plum Island in 2003. They vowed to upgrade security procedures and they insisted they would keep the public informed. It is known that they replaced the private company who provides security on the island in January 2005, but how well that company is performing has never been released publicly.
In 2006, security on Plum Island was once again performed by agents of the Federal Protection Service. However, it did not last. Federal agents were once again removed from the Island and the security services privatized. NY Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton and NY Congressman Tim Bishop stepped in and as of June 28, 2007, the Federal Protection Service is again providing security on Plum Island.
Why some services on Plum Island are still privatized when the USDA’s Ames, Iowa facility, which houses much less threatening pathogens, is NOT remains a mystery. And they certainly did NOT keep the public informed. Information about these last 2 outbreaks only came to light when the information was leaked to a reporter. DHS officials released information AFTER the NY Times published their articles!
It appears to this write that the DHS has given up on Plum Island. While $30 million has been appropriated to add a new 8,000 square feet animal wing, a conversion of 2,500 existing square feet to new Biosecurity Level 3 (BSL-3) space, a new firehouse/motor pool building and upgrade the water system, the electrical system, the cold-water chillers, and the wastewater decontamination system, the DHS maintains that it may shut down Plum Island when it opens its new National Bio and Agro Defense Facility (NBAF) in 2013.
Why Build a New Facility?
The new facility will be responsible for studying diseases categorized as foreign animal diseases and zoonotic diseases (disease which affects both animals and humans).
The DHS states on its website (http://www.dhs.gov/xres/labs/gc_1171470811292.shtm):
"The Plum Island Animal Disease Center (PIADC), which currently performs much of this research, is nearing the end of its lifecycle, and is too small to meet the research needs of the nation. The mission of Homeland Security, USDA-APHIS and USDA-ARS are expanding to meet the needs of the nation and there is physically not enough room in the Plum Island Facility. The Plum Island Facility also does not have BSL-4 capabilities to meet the research needs for the expanding missions, or to be prepared for the future."
Twenty-nine proposals were to house this new lab were received by the DHS. That list has been narrowed down to the following locations:
*Flora Industrial Park, Madison County, Miss.
*Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kan.
*Texas Research Park, San Antonio, Texas
*Umstead Research Farm, Granville County, N.C.
*University of Georgia/South Milledge Ave., Athens, Ga.
A list of public meeting dates regarding the above proposed sites may be found here: http://www.dhs.gov/xres/labs/editorial_0803.shtm
While there is no doubt that a facility such as this is needed somewhere in the world, we can only hope that the DHS and USDA have learned from the many lessons at Plum Island and not allow history to repeat itself with its new facility. The ramifications that misappropriation of funds, lax security and failure to perform even rudimentary maintenance on buildings may have on human, as well as animal, health are too grave. Especially with a BSL-4 facility.
Those who are interested in reading more about the troubled history of Plum Island are encouraged to read "Lab 257: The Disturbing Story of the Government's Secret Plum Island Germ Laboratory" by Michael Christopher Carroll @ 2004. This book may be purchased at http://www.harpercollins.com and http://www.amazon.com
1. GAO-03-847 Combating Bioterrorism: Actions Needed to Improve Security at Plum Island Animal Disease Center, September 2003
2. Carroll MC, Lab 257: The Disturbing Story of the Government’s Secret Plum Island Germ Laboratory, HarperCollins Publishers, © 2004
3. National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF); Notice of Request for Expression of Interest for Potential Sites for the NBAF, Federal Register: January 19, 2006 (Volume 71, Number 12)
4. New York Times articles and opinions: Island Fever, October 17, 2004; Plum Island Reports Disease Outbreak, August 22, 2004; An Exotic Disease And Plum Island, February 29, 2004; Report Cites Security Flaws at Plum Island, October 19, 2003; Power Fails for 3 Hours at Plum Island Infectious Disease Lab, December 20, 2002
LAB: 257 Plum Island
The Disturbing Story of the Government's Secret Plum Island Germ Laboratory
by Michael C Carroll
Nestled near the Hamptons, the fashionable summer playground of America's rich and famous, and in the shadow of New York City, lies an unimposing 840-acre island unidentified on most maps. On the few on which it can be found, Plum Island is marked red or yellow, and stamped U.S. government—restricted or dangerous animal diseases. Though many people live the good life within a scant mile or two from its shores, few know the name of this pork chop–shaped island. Even fewer can say whether it is inhabited, or why it doesn't exist on the map. That's all about to change.
Lab 257: The Disturbing Story of the Government's Secret Plum Island Germ Laboratory blows the lid off the stunning true nature and checkered history of Plum Island. It shows that the seemingly bucolic island on the edge of the largest population center in the United States is a ticking biological time bomb that none of us can safely ignore.
Based on innumerable declassified government documents, scores of in- depth interviews, and access to Plum Island itself, this is an eye- opening, suspenseful account of a federal government germ laboratory gone terribly wrong. For the first time, Lab 257 takes you deep inside this secret world and presents startling revelations including virus outbreaks, biological meltdowns, infected workers who were denied assistance in diagnosis by Plum Island brass, the periodic flushing of contaminated raw sewage into area waters, and the insidious connections between Plum Island, Lyme disease, and the deadly 1999 West Nile virus outbreak.
An exploration of the complex world of microbiology, viruses, and bacteria, Lab 257 also shows how the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which ran Plum Island for the last half century, is far more than wholesome grade-A eggs and the food pyramid. The book probes what's in store for Plum Island's new owner, the Department of Homeland Security, in this age of bioterrorism. And for those interested in questions of national security and safety, it is a call to action for those concerned with protecting present and future generations from preventable biological catastrophes.
Lab 257 will change forever our current understanding of Plum Island - - a place that is, in the words of one insider, "a biological Three Mile Island."
Lab for feared animal disease on mainland?
Federal facility, now off East Coast, researches highly contagious viruses
Updated: 10:06 a.m. CT Aug 28, 2007
WASHINGTON - A federal laboratory off Long Island, known as the “Alcatraz for animal disease,” may move to the U.S. mainland as part of a new $450 million research center.
Plans for the next-generation National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility, slated to go online by 2013, include biosafety labs where scientists, clad in outfits resembling spacesuits and tethered to air supplies, would research diseases that can spread to people from animals.
The Department of Homeland Security has partially completed a round of public hearings, which conclude September 20, on six potential sites for the NBAF, including Plum Island, which already houses an older research center.
Public meetings are scheduled for Tuesday in Manhattan, Kansas, and for Thursday in Flora, Mississippi, on proposals to build the facility in those communities. Sites also have been proposed in San Antonio, Texas; Athens, Georgia, and Butner, North Carolina.
The winning site would be named in fall 2008 under the schedule outlined by the government.
Only lab allowed to use live foot-and-mouth viruses
For more than half a century, the Plum Island Animal Disease Center has been the only federal laboratory permitted to conduct research on live foot-and-mouth disease viruses. If another site is selected, Congress will be asked to repeal a law that bars such research on the mainland, a DHS spokesman said.
Homeland Security says the NBAF would conduct research on highly contagious diseases, like foot-and-mouth disease and swine fever, along with two diseases that can spread to humans from animals, Rift Valley Fever and Japanese encephalitis.
“Today’s ... labs are extremely safe,” said the spokesman, Larry Orluskie.
There are four labs that run at biosafety level 4, which calls for multiple safeguards while handling high-risk disease organisms, in urban areas — Atlanta, the Washington, D.C. suburbs, and in Galveston and San Antonio, Texas. By comparison, a college chemistry lab could be level 1.
No history of public exposure
“There has never been a public exposure at a BSL-4 lab in the United States,” DHS said in documents prepared for the public meetings, which will garner information on possible environmental impacts at each site.
About 10 percent of the 520,000 square-foot NBAF would be devoted to biosafety level 4. Some 250-350 researchers, assistants and operations specialists would work at the facility, which would supersede work now performed at Plum Island in evaluating disease risk and developing vaccines and other counter-measures.
COMMENTS FROM A FORMER PLUM ISLAND NEIGHBOR:
There are also some serious water currents going in and around Plum Island. Get a tropical storm and off some scary thing goes. Used to fish around “Plum Gut” as a kid. The big current is the Gulf stream. It passes Plum Island and then takes a turn at Cape Cod and heads for Europe. The only saving grace is salt water is very cleansing but who knows what they have on that island and how it’s been twisted.
The eastern half of Long Island is loaded with horses, lot of high dollar ones, race horses, show stock. Get something running through the horses and people will clamor for more controls.Plum Island is along the Atlantic flyway for the migrating wild birds. Something contagious to people gets away and mass panic will ensue. With only those bridges into the city to evacuate and a normal rush hour often brings gridlock. I’ve driven in 2nd gear for 40 miles before with numerous dead stops, not moving an inch before. There has for ages been a standing joke that the Long Island Expressway is the world’s longest parking lot. NYC has more footage of automobile than it does road. If everybody were to head out of Long Island at the same time, nothing would move. It couldn’t.
It sounds awful, but Plum Island was something used to make me behave as a kid. Some kids got threatened with the boogey man or other monster. I got told more than once that if I was bad I’d get dumped at Plum Island. My 8 year old brain envisioned something like the island of Dr Moreau. Having seen the animal rooms in Brookhaven Nat’l laboratory I probably wasn’t far off.
*********************************************************************************Mishandling of Germs on Rise at US Labs
By LARRY MARGASAK 17 hours ago
WASHINGTON (AP) American laboratories handling the world's deadliest germs and toxins have experienced more than 100 accidents and missing shipments since 2003, and the number is increasing as more labs do the work.
No one died, and regulators said the public was never at risk during these incidents. But the documented cases reflect poorly on procedures and oversight at high-security labs, some of which work with organisms and poisons that can cause illnesses with no cure. In some cases, labs have failed to report accidents as required by law.
The mishaps include workers bitten or scratched by infected animals, skin cuts, needle sticks and more, according to a review by The Associated Press of confidential reports submitted to federal regulators. They describe accidents involving anthrax, bird flu virus, monkeypox and plague-causing bacteria at 44 labs in 24 states. More than two-dozen incidents were still under investigation.
The number of accidents has risen steadily. Through August, the most recent period covered in the reports obtained by the AP, labs reported 36 accidents and lost shipments during 2007 â€” nearly double the number reported during all of 2004.
Likewise, the number of labs approved by the government to handle the deadliest substances has nearly doubled to 409 since 2004, and there are now 15 of the highest-security labs. Labs are routinely inspected by federal regulators just once every three years, but accidents trigger interim inspections.
In a new report by congressional investigators, the Government Accountability Office said little is known about labs that aren't federally funded or don't work with any of 72 dangerous substances the government monitors most closely.
"No single federal agency ... has the mission to track the overall number of these labs in the United States," said the GAO's report, expected to be released later this week. "Consequently, no agency is responsible for determining the risks associated with the proliferation of these labs."
The House Energy and Commerce investigations subcommittee plans hearings Thursday on the issue. The lab incidents have sparked bipartisan concern.
"It may be only a matter of time before our nation has a public health incident with potentially catastrophic results," said Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., the panel's chairman.
The subcommittee's senior Republican, Ed Whitfield of Kentucky, added: "Currently, there is a hodgepodge system of federal oversight regulating the ... laboratories responsible for researching the deadliest germs and diseases. At Thursdays hearing, I expect to probe witnesses about how to improve oversight of these laboratories in a post 9-11 world."
Lab accidents have affected the outside world: Britain's health and safety agency concluded there was a "strong probability" a leaking pipe at a British lab manufacturing vaccines for foot-and-mouth disease was the source of an outbreak of the illness in livestock earlier this year. Britain was forced to suspend exports of livestock, meat and milk products and destroy livestock. The disease does not infect humans.
Accidents aren't the only concern. While medical experts consider it unlikely that a lab employee will become sick and infect others, these labs have strict rules to prevent anyone from stealing organisms or toxins and using them for bioterrorism.
The reports were so sensitive the Bush administration refused to release them under the Freedom of Information Act, citing an anti-bioterrorism law aimed at preventing terrorists from locating stockpiles of poisons and learning who handles them.
Among the previously undisclosed accidents:
_In Rockville, Md., ferret No. 992, inoculated with bird flu virus, bit a technician at Bioqual Inc. on the right thumb in July. The worker was placed on home quarantine for five days and directed to wear a mask to protect others.
_An Oklahoma State University lab in Stillwater in December could not account for a dead mouse inoculated with bacteria that causes joint pain, weakness, lymph node swelling and pneumonia. The rodent â€” one of 30 to be incinerated â€” was never found, but the lab said an employee "must have forgotten to remove the dead mouse from the cage" before the cage was sterilized.
_In Albuquerque, N.M., an employee at the Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute was bitten on the left hand by an infected monkey in September 2006. The animal was ill from an infection of bacteria that causes plague. "When the gloves were removed, the skin appeared to be broken in 2 or 3 places," the report said. The worker was referred to a doctor, but nothing more was disclosed.
_In Fort Collins, Colo., a worker at a federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention facility found, in January 2004, three broken vials of Russian spring-summer encephalitis virus. Wearing only a laboratory coat and gloves, he used tweezers to remove broken glass and moved the materials to a special container. The virus, a potential bio-warfare agent, could cause brain inflammation and is supposed to be handled in a lab requiring pressure suits that resemble space suits. The report did not say whether the worker became ill.
Other reports describe leaks of contaminated waste, dropped containers with cultures of bacteria and viruses, and defective seals on airtight containers. Some recount missing or lost shipments, including plague bacteria that was supposed to be delivered to the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology in 2003. The wayward plague shipment was discovered eventually in Belgium and incinerated safely.
The reports must be submitted to regulators whenever a lab suffers a theft, loss or release of any of 72 substances known as "select agents" â€” a government list of germs and toxins that represent the horror stories of the world's worst medical tragedies for humans and animals.
A senior CDC official, Dr. Richard Besser, said his agency is committed to ensuring that U.S. labs are safe and that all such incidents are disclosed to the government. He said he was unaware of any risk to the public resulting from infections among workers at the high-security labs, but he acknowledged that regulators are worried about accidents that could go unreported.
"If you're asking if it's possible for someone to not report an infection, and have it missed, that clearly is a concern that we have," Besser said.
Texas A&M's laboratory failed to report, until this year, one case of a lab worker's infection from Brucella bacteria last year and three others' previous infection with Q fever â€” missteps documented in news reports earlier this year. The illnesses are characterized by high fevers and flu-like symptoms that sometimes cause more serious complications.
"The major problems at Texas A&M went undetected and unreported, and we don't think that it was an isolated event," critic Edward Hammond said. He runs the Sunshine Project, which has tracked incidents at other labs for years and first revealed the Texas A&M illnesses that the school failed to report.
Rules for working in the labs are tough and are getting more restrictive as the bio-safety levels rise. The highest is Level 4, where labs study substances that pose a "high risk of life-threatening disease for which no vaccine or therapy is available." Besides wearing wear full-body, air-supplied suits, workers undergo extensive background checks and carry special identification cards.
"The risk that a killer agent could be set loose in the general population is real," Hammond said.
In other lab accidents recounted in the reports, the Public Health Research Institute in Newark, N.J., was investigated by the FBI in 2005 when it couldn't account for three of 24 mice infected with plague bacteria. The lab and the CDC concluded the mice were cannibalized by other plague-infested mice or buried under bedding when the cage was sterilized with high temperatures.
The lab's director, Dr. David Perlin, told the AP it would be impossible for mice to escape from the building and said a worker failed to record their deaths.
"I feel 99 percent comfortable that was the case," Perlin said. "The animals become badly cannibalized. You only see bits and pieces. They're in cages with shredded newspaper. You really have to search hard with gloves and masks."
A worker at the Army's biological facility in Fort Detrick, Md., was grazed by a needle in February 2004 and exposed to the deadly Ebola virus after a mouse kicked a syringe. She was placed in an isolation ward called "The Slammer," but the Army said she did not become ill.
In other previously undisclosed accidents:
In Decatur, Ga., a worker at the Georgia Public Health Laboratory handled a Brucella culture in April 2004 without high-level precautions. She became feverish months later and tested positive for exposure at a hospital emergency room in July. She eventually returned to work. The lab's confidential report defended her: "The technologist is a good laboratorian and has good technique."
In April this year at the Lovelace facility in Albuquerque, an African green monkey infected intentionally with plague-causing bacteria reached with its free hand and scratched at a Velcro restraining strap, cutting into the gloved hand of a lab worker. The injured worker at the Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute received medical treatment, including an antibiotic.
The National Animal Disease Center in Ames, Iowa, reported leaks of contaminated waste three times in November and December 2006. While one worker was preparing a pipe for repairs, he cut his middle finger, possibly exposing him to Brucella, according to the confidential reports.
A researcher at the CDC's lab in Fort Collins, Colo., dropped two containers on the floor last November, including one with plague bacteria.
A worker at Walter Reed Army Institute of Research-Naval Medical Research Center in Silver Spring, Md., sliced through two pair of gloves while handling a rat carcass infected with plague bacteria. The May 2005 report said she was sent to an emergency room, which released her and asked her to return for a follow-up visit.