The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention plans to announce its new safety advisory panel later this week as it has experienced serious issues with work safety in several occasions. Because of breaches in handling of not only anthrax samples but also deadly forms of bird flu in the previous weeks, such a measure is not only welcome but necessary to ensure the safety of both CDC employees and the general population.
Dr. Thomas Frieden of the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention discussed the choosing of the panel members with reporters and explained that they are experts trained in biosecurity and that they will be carefully chosen so as to be completely independent from the agency (to ensure objectivity).
After the incidents that have been so gravely criticized in which the CDC had improperly handled live anthrax samples (they had also failed to use proper disinfectant, the samples were stored in refrigerators on hallways, without proper markings, the refrigerators were not locked and the disinfectant was expied), the integration of such a panel will be a great relief to the general public. Another incident involved the cross-contamination of dangerous strains of bird flu that resulted in the temporary closure of Influenza laboratories within the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention.
Currently, two laboratories within the CDC are closed (the ones involved in the anthrax mishandling and in the bird flu cross contamination event). The transfer of samples from high security laboratories is also on halt until better safety protocols are reviewed and instated.
Dr. Thomas Frieden has made a pledge to greatly improve safety measures, even if this means to make radical changes in the handling rules of bacteria and virus transportation. He also declared for the National Press Club in Washington that the invitations to join the panel had been already issued and that acceptance responses should be coming any time soon.
The Federal Advisory Committee Act will be the part of legislature that will govern the activity of the Advisors (as the law governs all operations of federal advisory panels, open meetings, chartering, reporting and public involvement). Frieden also added that none of the members of the panel will have ever worked at the CDC so that they can be as independent as possible in their evaluation.
Frieden is confident that the new measures that are being instated will significantly improve the quality of handling within the CDC and that it will finally correct those mistakes that made the CDC look so unreliable in the past.