The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has announced they will be installing additional video cameras in their laboratories in order to prevent accidents. This announcement follows a series of mishaps at the agency, which have served to shake public confidence in the agency.
Potentially disastrous errors made by CDC officials since June 2014 include the shipment of a deadly form of bird flu to an external laboratory, and delivery of anthrax to a facility not equipped to safely handle the package. In December 2014, one agency workers nearly contracted Ebola after working with a sample of the virus that was supposed to have been rendered inert. The worker was wearing gloves and a gown, but not the face mask or other equipment that is needed to work with live versions of the virus.
Facilities for the CDC are located at more than 1,000 laboratories and other locations. These recent incidents have driven critics to question procedures at the agency. Investigations of the bird flu and anthrax accidents were initiated by the United States Congress. These were met with a pledge from Tom Frieden, director of the agency, to make procedures at the CDC more secure.
Safety managers for the CDC believe the new video equipment will assist their researchers and managers in ensuring that specific protocols are followed at all times, increasing safety.
The agency has installed 67 video cameras in their facilities. Locations where hazardous samples are rendered inert prior to shipment are now under careful watch of surveillance equipment. Such procedures are supposed to be carefully regulated through the use of a checklist, and the new cameras could help ensure adherence to the method.
"You cannot deviate. That is what the camera system helps with," Leslie Dauphin, interim director of laboratory safety for the CDC, said.
Officials with the CDC have confirmed that no one was injured in the Ebola incident, but have not yet released a full report on the event, although that accounting is expected around the first week of February.
Supervisors will be able to view procedures in containment labs live or in recorded images, while managers work away from the laboratory. The agency has spent $84,000 purchasing and installing the new camera system.
Color-coded or specially-sized containers to differentiate between live and dead samples of hazardous pathogens is another idea being considered by CDC officials to avoid problems in the future. The agency may also adopt external standards, possibly those developed by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), for their facilities.