Machine malfunction sparks fire at CDC lab - CBS46 News

Machine malfunction sparks fire at CDC lab

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ATLANTA (CBS46) - A building that houses 450 workers at the Centers for Disease Control remained closed Wednesday after a fire broke out in a rubella laboratory

CDC Spokesman Tom Skinner said the fire broke out at midnight and no one was in the lab at the time. Skinner said a malfunctioning machine is blamed for the fire.

The CDC said the lab not only handles the rubella strain, but also HIV, meningitis, mumps and measles.

"The fire was contained to the lab," said Skinner. "There was no breach whatsoever in containment. No germs were released whatsoever. It appears that most of the damage done was done by the water.”

Skinner said he cannot recall a fire closing down a building at the agency in his 26 years on the job, calling it "very, very unusual."

The fire is the latest incident that has called into question the safety procedures at the CDC complex on Clifton Road.

A recent report done by a CDC committee found at least a half dozen problems, including inadequate safety training for employees. It also found employees often did not report safety concerns for fear of retaliation.

"We are very concerned that the CDC is on the way to losing credibility," said the report. Last December, a worker was potentially exposed to the deadly Ebola virus after it was mishandled. Last summer, scores of employees were potentially exposed to Anthrax. Then came reports that a sample of the deadly bird flu was accidentally sent out.

CDC officials said they have already begun to implement changes, including improved training and the installation of video cameras in labs to observe work that is going on.

"Sometimes there are mistakes made," said Skinner. "CDC Director Dr. Tom Friedan has made this a priority to make CDC the world's premier institution when it comes to laboratory safety, and that's what we're doing.”

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