CDC Finishes One A&M Investigation, Begins Another

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Officials with the Centers for Disease Control have concluded their investigation into the infection of a Texas A&M researcher with brucella in early 2006.

The Department of Health and Human Services will now decide what punishment, if any, will be handed out based on the CDC's investigation.

The university is alleged to have failed to report the accident to the CDC in a timely matter as required by law. The Austin-based Sunshine Project watchdog group blew the whistle on A&M in this first instance.

But as we reported Tuesday, the group is again alleging that A&M didn't properly report the infection of three researchers with another bioweapons agent two months later.

The CDC says they have launched a new investigation, looking at both A&M's safety and reporting procedures, which the university changed earlier this year in response to the brucellosis incident.

"Texas A&M's policies are not the law of the land," said Edward Hammond, who heads up the Sunshine Project. "Acts of Congress are the law of the land, and so they need to obey the law and not play footsie with policy."

The disease in question is Q-Fever, which is usually seen in animals and produces flu-like symptoms. While not often deadly, it is weaponized because it is infectious and resistant to heat.

The researchers infected at A&M were treated at Scott and White according to e-mails obtained by the Sunshine Project.

Texas A&M Interim Vice President and Provost Jerry Strawser released the following statement Tuesday in response to the latest investigation:

"We can report that following an annual survey conducted as part of an occupational health plan, serological samples from three individuals reflected elevated titers when compared to the previous titers on file for these individuals. In connection with the ongoing investigation by CDC, the university adopted a procedure in April 2007 that redefines occupational exposure to include the presence of an elevated titer. We dutifully reported these elevated titers to the CDC following the adoption of this procedure. We are awaiting a CDC response and will have no further comment until that time. As we have said before, in response to this unfortunate incident, we have greatly strengthened our safety, training and reporting procedures."