WASHINGTON — An Army laboratory in Utah inadvertently shipped at least one live sample of anthrax to a lab in Maryland, prompting an ongoing effort to recover others from the same batch that were sent to facilities in eight other states and a military base in South Korea, Pentagon officials said Thursday.

The live sample was shipped from Dugway Proving Ground in Utah to an undisclosed facility in Maryland and discovered by workers there last Friday. Samples from that same batch — labeled “AG1” — were then sent to laboratories in eight other states and could have been distributed from there to facilities run by the government or private companies, said a Defense official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the incident.

The Pentagon also said that one sample was sent to the Joint U.S. Forces Korea Portal and Integrated Threat Recognition Program at Osan Air Base.

“The sample was destroyed in accordance with appropriate protocols,” Army Col. Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman, said in a statement.

Warren said the Defense Department is collaborating with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in an investigation to determine what happened.

“There is no known risk to the general public, and there are no suspected or confirmed cases of anthrax infection in potentially exposed lab workers,” Warren said. “Out of an abundance of caution, [the Defense Department] has stopped the shipment of this material from its labs pending completion of the investigation.”

The lab at Dugway was involved in a Defense Department effort to develop a test to identify biological threats in the field, Warren said. A Pentagon official said an anthrax sample is typically irradiated to kill it and then distributed to facilities that are involved in the program. It is unclear what went wrong in that process.

A broad effort to lock down the other samples began less than a day after the Maryland laboratory reported the live sample, and the CDC was called in, the official said.

The other samples were sent to labs in Texas, Wisconsin, Delaware, New Jersey, Tennessee, New York, California and Virginia, the official added.

Dugway Proving Ground is an isolated area about 85 miles southwest of Salt Lake City, and is known for testing biological- and chemical-weapons defense systems. It has had at least one other significant incident: A misplaced vial of nerve agent led to a lockdown in 2011. The base was reopened without any illness after the vial was discovered.

Anthrax is considered one of the most common bioweapons that Americans could face in a terrorist attack, according to the CDC.

In 2001, powdered anthrax spores were put into letters that were mailed to news media offices and two senators, infecting 12 mail carriers and 10 others. Five people died.


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