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US health chief admits 'pattern' of safety failures

Center for Disease Control and Prevention Director Tom Frieden testifies before the House Energy and Commerce Committee - Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee on July 16, 2014 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DCThe chief of the US government’s top public health agency acknowledged a pattern of safety errors Wednesday after dangerous mixups in the handling of influenza and anthrax. Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention acknowledged five incidents over the past decade — two of them in recent months — in which workers shipped anthrax, flu, botulism and a bacteria known as brucella to other labs without following proper de-activation and safety procedures. “I think we missed a critical pattern,” CDC chief Tom Frieden said during two hours of questioning from the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations. No one was believed to have been hurt by the mishaps, but they exposed a major lapse of protocol within the CDC, which is viewed globally as a leading scientific and health agency.

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