More than 200 mishaps reported at Fort Detrick in 2010, 2011
The number of incidents was up from 2009, when 64 mishaps were reported, and from 2008, when 42 cases were filed. The increased number of reports was partly the result of an institutional change to more effectively assess the effectiveness of the lab's personal protective equipment. More reports gives the facility more data with which to track trends, the Frederick News Post reports.
In one 2010 incident, an employee was infected with Western equine encephalitis, which can cause flu-like symptoms, brain swelling, coma and death. The employee was infected when opening vials under a hood using a special filter and ventilation system. The employee realized the error, applied a fixative, decontaminated the lab and notified the appropriate personnel.
"The division held a safety stand-down day to reinforce handling and processing of viruses between laboratories," a safety officer said in the report, according to the Frederick News Post. "Individual who was involved has been removed from the laboratory pending review and assessment of abilities."
The labs have been under major scrutiny since Bruce Ivins, an Army researcher who worked in USAMRIID labs, committed suicide in 2008 after he was accused of being responsible for sending the deadly 2001 anthrax letters.
The researchers report everything from being rear-ended on the way to work to tears in protective wear. Reports relating to the lab specifically lead to changes in procedure and equipment.
"The important thing is that people are making reports because that's how we make sure that change occurs," W. Emmett Barkley, the president of Proven Practices LLC, said, according to the Frederick News Post. "I think the culture is that if you do something wrong, if something happens, if a piece of equipment breaks, it's important to report that. It's part of the process for developing safe science."