CDC cites laxity in Tulane germ leak

NEW YORK — The accidental release of dangerous bacteria at a Louisiana research center probably occurred because workers were lax about how they wore protective garments in the lab where the germ was kept, federal officials said Friday.

However, officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say the release is not a danger to the general public because there’s no evidence suggesting the germ traveled off the research center campus.

The germ, called Burkholderia pseudomallei, is found in tropical climates — particularly Southeast Asia and northern Australia. People and animals generally get it through direct contact with contaminated water and soil. It is not believed to spread from person to person.

Federal officials believe that in November, the bacteria spread from a lab to other areas of the Tulane National Primate Research Center in Covington. Eight monkeys kept outside the lab were later found to be infected.

When they finished their work in the lab, Tulane workers commonly kept on the scrubs and shoes they wore underneath those outer garments, CDC investigators found.

Officials believe the bacteria hitched a ride on those scrubs and shoes when workers walked to other areas. “That’s what we think is the most likely cause” of the release, said the CDC’s Robbin Weyant.

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