FREDERICK, Md (WDVM) — The labs at Fort Detrick that handle infectious agents and toxins are suspended on orders from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“All work with BSL-3 and BSL-4 has been stopped. We’re in the process of taking a comprehensive review of affected projects and external sponsors,” explained commander for the United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID), Colonel E. Darrin Cox.
USAMRIID officials say after a May 2018 failure at the Fort Detrick Steam Sterilization Plant, they switched over to a new chemical to treat lab wastewater.
That required changes in procedure and practices.
“Those changes substantially increased the complexity of operating in our bio-containment laboratories. Some of those resulted in material failures and then again sometimes, human error, said Cox. “
The CDC suspended the institute based on mechanical and human errors.
Cox noted that the CDC makes both announced and unannounced visits to the labs. USAMRIID was issued a notice before the suspension was issued.
A handful of projects that were nearing completion were allowed to finish, but since the suspension, no new research has started Cox explained.
“Members of the Maryland congressional delegation including Senators Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen and Congressman David Trone have penned a letter to the U.S. Army asking why Congress wasn’t notified of the lab closure.
They went on to ask six questions in their letter including what specific deficiencies led to the CDC shutting down operations and what specific steps is the army taking to correct the deficiencies.
“I am convinced that the outstanding professionals within USAMRIID are actively working to ensure a safe resumption of activities, laboratory research,” Cox explained.
The CDC said they will reevaluate the situation once USAMRIID’s deficiencies are corrected.