Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Army: Broken procedures led to lab infection/ Frederick NewsPost

 According to the April 9, 2010 Frederick NewsPost:
An Army lab at Fort Detrick said Tuesday it did not follow proper procedures last November when a researcher infected herself with the tularemia bacteria.
The researcher at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases was exposed to the bacteria between Nov. 13 and 17, and USAMRIID's health team did not realize she may have contracted the disease until Dec. 
A USAMRIID summary report states the researcher did not follow lab procedure for disposing of her work materials, had not been immunized for tularemia, was not wearing proper safety attire given the lack of immunization and did not alert the proper offices when she called in sick to work.....
And I didn't even mention the BL-4 lab recently built in a hurricane and flood zone, in Galveston, Texas, where the safety plan (according to the NY Times) sounds entirely unworkable:
Each time a hurricane approaches the island, scientists will have to stop their experiments and exterminate many of the viruses and bacteria they are studying, said Dr. James LeDuc, the lab's deputy director.
"Many"?  What about the unexterminated ones?

We Americans are not very good at creating, carrying out and enforcing fail-safe procedures.  We prefer to tempt fate, as the Deepwater Horizon disaster spells out clearly.  It was cheaper for BP to face a potential 75 million cost in the event of disaster than to do things right.   Congress acquiesced in capping their liability years ago.  But now officials say they will pass a new law to up the cap.
UPDATE May 5: The proposals unveiled by three senators yesterday would raise the legal cap on damages that oil firms must pay after a spill from $75m to $10bn. They would also do away with a $1bn per incident cap on an industry fund. The existing limits on liability are 20 years old, dating from the Exxon Valdez spill off Alaska.
UPDATE May 6CNN Money looks at the liability issues, costs and BP stock value resulting from the Deepwater Horizon disaster.
Too bad BP was not as concerned about a foolproof cap for the well. (And if I understand correctly, a football field-sized drilling rig is lying belly-up on top of the well, making applying a cap problematic.)


Anonymous said...

Basically, the researcher lacked common scientific sense, especially when working in a BL3 or BL4 environment. So what are the hiring criteria ? What do the supervisors do ?

Meryl Nass, M.D. said...

Ever heard of human nature? Do you perform perfectly all the time? I wish I did.
There have been too many people making too many mistakes for us to trust the systems that have been designed, since they regularly fail.

Anonymous said...

Human error, human motives, human ignorance...all reasons why vaccines or any medical procedure or treatment should not be mandatory or forced on anyone.

Nor should humans be growing dangerous pathogens or altering them from their natural state.