ATLANTA --The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that at least 52 workers are taking antibiotics as a precaution because of a lab safety problem that may have accidentally exposed them to anthrax.

So far, the CDC's occupational health clinic has seen 54 out of 86 potentially exposed employees. Only two have refused antibiotic treatment, which can cut the chances of infection after exposure to the germ. The CDC says 27 of them also began receiving an anthrax vaccine.

According to a CDC statement, a Roybal campus biosafety lab preparing Bacillus anthracis (anthrax) samples for research "did not adequately inactivate the samples." The samples were moved and used in three labs not equipped to handle live anthrax, the CDC says. Workers, under the belief that the samples were inactivated, weren't wearing adequate protection while handling the anthrax.


Investigators also determined that procedures used in two of the three labs may have aerosolized the spores. Lab and hallway areas were decontaminated and labs will be reopened when it's determined they are safe.

The potential exposure was discovered on June 13 when anthrax was found on bacterial plates that were being gathered for disposal.

The CDC says it's taking aggressive steps to protect the health of those who were potentially exposed to the anthrax. The risk of infection is low, according to the CDC. Investigators say that other CDC staff, family members and the general public aren't at risk of exposure and no protective action is needed.

Anthrax, which occurs naturally in soil, affects domestic and wild animals, and humans can become infected from close contact with them or animal products. The illness is not contagious.

Symptoms, which can mimic the flu or a cold, can appear between one day or more than two months.

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