It’s been almost a month since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shut down an Army infectious disease research lab, and a local lawmaker wants answers.
Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Maryland, sent a letter on Friday to acting Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy, wanting to know how the shutdown of the Fort Detrick, Maryland, facility will affect its ongoing work and whether anyone was exposed to a dangerous agent as a result of the “deficiencies” the CDC found in a June inspection.
“I was disappointed to have learned of this situation through press reports, rather than from the Army directly, even though it happened several weeks ago,” Van Hollen wrote.
USARMRIID received a cease and desist letter from the CDC on July 18, a spokeswoman confirmed to Military Times on Friday.
Violations with the lab’s wastewater treatment system prompted the shutdown, she said, leading to a suspension from the Federal Select Agents Program, which allows facilities to handle biological and chemical agents.
One of those is Ebola, for which USAMRIID has been working to develop a vaccine. In March the lab received approval from the Food and Drug Administration to inject monkeys with live virus in order to test the effectiveness of treatments.
Van Hollen requested that McCarthy get back to him with: background and other details about the failed June inspection; the effect of the shutdown on current research; whether any mishandling lead to exposure or potential exposure to toxic agents; and the Army’s plan to get the lab up and running again.
There were no exposures to employees, the environment or the public at large, Caree Vander Linden told Military Times.
“Operations will resume when the Institute meets or exceeds all requirements identified by the CDC and the U.S. Army,” she said. “At this time, there is no target date for resuming full operations.”
Meghann Myers is the Pentagon bureau chief at Military Times. She covers operations, policy, personnel, leadership and other issues affecting service members.