(RxWiki News) Researchers can safely study the highly contagious Ebola virus by following the proper safety protocol, which includes wearing a face shield. But if errors are made, those researchers may face some serious consequences.
Such an error has happened at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, The New York Times reports.
A lab technician may have been exposed to the Ebola virus when a high-security lab sent the wrong samples to another CDC lab down the hall. The high-security lab should have sent samples containing killed virus but sent the live virus by mistake. The technician who handled the samples wore gloves and a gown but not a face shield.
The technician will be closely watched for signs of Ebola for 21 days — the incubation period of the disease. That means that if the technician does not show symptoms within 21 days of being exposed to the virus, he or she likely does not have the disease.
"At this time, we know of only the one potential exposure," CDC Director Tom R. Frieden told The Washington Post in a telephone interview.
Other employees did enter the lab where the mistake occurred. These employees are being examined, and according to CDC spokesperson Thomas Skinner, it seems so far that no one else was infected.
CDC officials said the samples were properly contained and never left the CDC campus, so there is no risk to the public.
In a statement, Frieden said he was troubled by this mistake and promised "a full review of every aspect," The New York Times reports.
"Thousands of laboratory scientists in more than 150 labs throughout the CDC have taken extraordinary steps in recent months to improve safety," Frieden said. "No risk to staff is acceptable, and our efforts to improve lab safety are essential — the safety of our employees is our highest priority."
The Ebola virus can cause Ebola virus disease. This disease is marked by symptoms like high fever, nausea, vomiting and unexplained bleeding. The virus is only contagious through the blood or other bodily fluids of infected patients. Patients are only contagious if they are showing symptoms of Ebola.