There seem to be some problems with the CDC’s Q Fever Biohazard level 3 facility:
At the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s new $214 million infectious disease laboratory in Atlanta, scientists are conducting experiments on bioterror bacteria in a room with a containment door sealed with duct tape.
The tape was applied around the edges of the door a year ago after the building’s ventilation system malfunctioned and pulled potentially contaminated air out of the lab and into a “clean” hallway.
Nine CDC workers were tested in May 2007 for potential exposure to the Q fever bacteria being studied in the lab, CDC officials said this week in response to questions from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
The air-flow incident occurred very early in the morning, before the workday began. The blood tests were done out of an “abundance of caution,” CDC spokesman Tom Skinner said, and they showed that none of the workers who arrived after the incident were infected.
Q fever, which causes high fevers and sometimes fatal heart problems, is most commonly spread when humans inhale bacteria-laden dust from contaminated animal waste. Human-to-human transmission is rare. It is classified as a potential bioterror agent because it is moderately easy to disseminate.
The CDC Q fever lab’s air containment systems have since worked properly, agency officials said; the lab is safe and poses no risk to workers. The public was never at any risk because numerous security layers were in place between the lab and the outdoors, they said.
Yet the duct tape remains in place.
I’m a big fan of duct tape. Not only do I believe that it has supernatural powers, but it very well might represent the apotheosis of American technological ingenuity. That being said, duct tape and Q fever do not belong together. Ever (EVAH!).
Moving right along:
The duct-taped Q fever lab, which is a Biosafety Level 3 (BSL-3) lab, is currently the only operating lab in the building’s “high-containment block,” which houses the four BSL-4 labs as well as three other BSL-3 labs.
One of the safety features of these high-containment labs is that they are designed to operate under negative air pressure, which keeps germs in by having air flow only in one direction. Air is constantly drawn from clean areas and halls into the lab, then vented outdoors through specially designed HEPA filters.
The incident that led to CDC lab workers having their blood tested began around 3 or 4 a.m. on May 25, 2007. That’s when CDC facilities staff shut down the building’s air handling system for maintenance, said Bowen. After the system was restarted, the Q fever lab lost its negative air pressure.
When workers arrived to begin their day, they discovered air coming out of the Q fever lab, rather than going into it, CDC officials said. “It pulled air out of that lab and into that corridor,” Bowen said.
I’m sure there’s a moral to this story, but I have no idea what it is. This does, however, put my concerns about my apartment building’s central air into perspective…
(I do have a reputation to uphold)
Related post: Revere has some things to say about this too.
I work in a BSL-3; this is in no way a big deal, at least on the surface. The ambient air in a BSL-3 is fine to breathe, because all the pathogens are confined to hoods. If our negative pressure failed, it would do the same thing, because there are no airtight seals on doors to BSL-3s.
What it sounds like happened is the pressure failed, probably at a time when all the samples were stowed away in incubators anyway, and some lab workers that were unaware of what that meant got worried and asked to get tested (which is fine – noone wants Q fever). So the duct tape was put up, on what sounds like an unused door anyway. I don’t really see this as a FAIL!! situation.
I don’t regard Coxiella burnetii to be a BFD, but c’mon, DUCT TAPE? I figured my department was kinda ghetto, but they have their hoods and negative pressure in place. No need for duct tape. Get with it, CDC. You’re looking shabby!
wasn’t there a major problem last year in a Tx lab?
And wasn’t there a leak in the UK causing foot and mouth disease?
themadlolscientist, that comment is full of WIN!
I find this completely hilarious considering all the hassle and hoops that the CDC has put researchers in other BSL-3 facilities through recently (Ah, yes, there was an incident in texas but it was more an issue of administrative failure in reporting an accident up the line and less an issue of anything else in my ‘newspaper’ understanding of things.)
I also work in a BSL3 lab and based on my experience, I have to agree with Brian. Our BSL3 is under negative pressure and all our work done is in a biosafety cabinet. We do not use duct tape for any type of day to day safety precautions and none of the numerous levels of safety and security henge on taping doors. However, if there was a possibility of losing negative pressure, protocol states that, among other things, all doors are taped. Like Brian said, the air inside the room is clean, so the tape is just another measure of safety that is simple to apply.
drdrA, you are correct! The Texas case started because an incident was not reported to the CDC.
thanks for all