A US military facility in Utah mistakenly sent live anthrax bacteria to private laboratories in nine US states and a US military base in South Korea, the Pentagon said.
It said Wednesday there was no known suspected infection or risk to the public.
But four US civilians have been started on preventive measures called post-exposure prophylaxis, which usually includes the anthrax vaccine, antibiotics or both, Reuters reported.
The four people face “minimal” risk, said Jason McDonald, a spokesman for the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which has begun an investigation of the incident.
But they had been “doing procedures that sent the agent into the air”, McDonald said.
When anthrax becomes airborne, it can cause a deadly illness called inhalation anthrax.
That is what happened in 2001, when anthrax sent through the US mail to government and media targets killed five people.
The anthrax sent from the Utah military lab was meant to be shipped in an inactive state as part of efforts to develop a field-based test to identify biological threats, the Pentagon said.
The mishap comes 11 months after the CDC, one of the government’s top civilian labs, similarly mishandled anthrax.
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