Live anthrax shipped to as many as 51 labs: Pentagon

Director of Medical Programs for DoD Chemical and Biological Defense Cdr. Franca Jones demonstrates the protocol for shipping anthrax samples.Alex Wong/Getty Images

Director of Medical Programs for DoD Chemical and Biological Defense Cdr. Franca Jones demonstrates the protocol for shipping anthrax samples.

The Pentagon said live anthrax samples may have been mistakenly shipped to as many as 51 labs in the U.S., Canada, Australia and South Korea.Alex Wong/Getty Images

The Pentagon said live anthrax samples may have been mistakenly shipped to as many as 51 labs in the U.S., Canada, Australia and South Korea.

The samples were supposed to be inactive, the Pentagon said.Alex Wong/Getty Images

The samples were supposed to be inactive, the Pentagon said.

Pentagon officials stressed the public is not at risk.Alex Wong/Getty Images

Pentagon officials stressed the public is not at risk.

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The U.S. military may have mistakenly sent samples of live anthrax to as many as 51 labs across the world — and that number could rise, the Pentagon fears.

The potentially deadly samples were shipped from an Army testing facility to as many as 51 commercial, academic and federal labs in 17 states, plus the District of Columbia, Australia, Canada and South Korea. A lab on Pentagon grounds is among them.

That’s up from the 12 labs reported earlier this week.

“We expect this number may rise because the scope of the investigation is going on and we will update these numbers daily until all of the investigation is complete,” Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work said at a Pentagon briefing.

The delivered samples were supposed to be inactive when they were shipped. It’s not clear exactly when the samples were mailed.

They ended up in labs in California, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Ohio and North Carolina, the pentagon believes.

While only 10 of the lab samples immediately tested positive for live anthrax, it can take up to 10 days to conclusively confirm that the spores are all inactive, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explained.

Pentagon officials stressed the public is not at risk: The concentrations of the shipped samples are too low to have any health effects on most people, ABC News reported.

No one has developed an anthrax infection from the deliveries, officials said, but 31 lab staffers who handled the packages are being treated with antibiotics for possible exposure.

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