October 25, 2016

CDC Lab Worker Acquired Salmonella Infection at Work

A laboratory worker at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) acquired a Salmonella infection at work. Scientists and researchers at BSL-2 laboratories, where this incident occurred, work with “common and treatable causes of illness.” Preliminary tests indicate that the worker was infected with a strain of Salmonella which matched the strain being worked on at the lab.

Salmonella[Editor’s humorous side note: I am not saying that this is how this infection occurred, but this incident reminds me of television shows that show characters eating and drinking in laboratories. One of the first things my microbiology professor at college told us is that you never drink or eat in a lab. Ever.]

The workers is now recovered and back at work at the CDC. No other staff were exposed, based on what the government knows now. Before getting sick, the worker had hands-on training by experienced microbiologists and completed all the required safety training before starting work. The worker was following standard protocols on a frozen sample to culture or grow the bacteria. The CDC is investigating to see if more safeguards are needed to prevent exposures in the future when performing tasks like this one.

Laboratory science is crucial for America’s health, but the work carries risks. The CDC has implemented many steps over the years to enhance its laboratory safety program, including standing up the Office of the Associate Director for Laboratory Science and Safety, reviewing laboratory safety protocols, and establishing the Laboratory Leadership Service fellowship program. The agency always investigates these incidents when they do occur.

There are 1.2 million cases of Salmonella infections every year in the U.S., which are usually acquired by eating contaminated food. This infection causes symptoms of diarrhea that may be bloody, fever, abdominal cramps, nausea, and vomiting that abate in about four to seven days.

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