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Infectious Disease

Dr. Manny: Safety lapses at CDC have me worried about slip-ups in foreign labs

smallpox virus micrograph

 (CDC/ Dr. Fred Murphy)

Given the recent major lapses in safety at top government-run health facilities in the United States, I can only imagine what’s going on in other laboratories around the world.

Today, Tom Friedan, director for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), appeared before a House subcommittee, where he admitted to “deeply troubling” patterns in the way deadly biological materials were being handled.  He stated that the lack of adequate procedures and oversight were “totally unacceptable,” and he vowed to fix the problems.

What’s “deeply troubling” to me is that these multiple incidents were not recognized earlier by CDC leadership, and nothing was done in time to fix them when they were revealed.  Frieden’s explanation before Congress should not have been one of apology, but instead, it should have included steps that were already being taken by the agency to rectify these issues.  

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Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., also had a hard time believing Friedan’s promise, asking, “Why should we believe this time things should be different?”

I still believe that the CDC, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are the best run scientific facilities on the planet.  These agencies are responsible for saving millions of lives around the world.  They have also set the standard by which many other countries monitor disease and conduct research – from the creation of novel vaccines to the development of effective antibiotic treatments.

However, if a place like the CDC has begun to develop a culture of laxity and is failing to paying attention to detail, I wonder how other laboratories in other nations are handling deadly biological materials. How would we ever know how quality protocols are being handled in Russia or in China? At least here in America, sooner or later, these things come to the public’s attention.

Overall, it is important to fix our problems here at home.  But we also need to be vigilant with our neighbors, and President Obama should be monitoring any health mishaps in other nations and inform the world if possible.

Just remember: One little mistake in one little vial could harm millions of people.

Dr. Manny Alvarez serves as Fox News Channel's Senior Managing Editor for Health News. Prior to this position, Alvarez was a FNC medical contributor.
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