CDC installing cameras in labs in agency-wide safety push

Jan. 30, 2015

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has introduced camera monitoring of workers in its highest-level biosafety laboratories as it seeks to restore public faith in its procedures after a series of mishaps, agency officials tell Reuters.

One lab worker inadvertently risked contracting Ebola last month when they worked with the live virus that was supposed to have been inactivated, or killed. Since last June, the Atlanta-based agency has disclosed several incidents, one in which scientists unknowingly sent potentially live anthrax to a lower-security laboratory and another in which a deadly form of bird flu was sent to an external agency's lab. The mishaps have raised major questions over safety practices at more than 1,000 laboratory and support facilities that make up the CDC, whose role is to monitor and prevent outbreaks of disease.

The anthrax and bird flu accidents touched off a congressional inquiry and a pledge from CDC director Dr. Thomas Frieden to overhaul the agency's safety culture. A total of 67 cameras have been installed in key laboratories to help ensure technicians follow protocols, especially the techniques to render dangerous pathogens harmless before they can be transferred to lower-security labs.

The camera system will enable supervisors outside of a containment laboratory to review the footage and verify that steps are being performed correctly. The video is transmitted from the containment lab via a Wi-Fi network. The videos can be viewed by a supervisor in real time or later. So far, the CDC has spent around $84,000 on the camera system, according to a CDC spokesman.

Read the interview on the Reuters website