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FedEx works to determine whether anthrax shipments came through Memphis

Published: May. 28, 2015 at 9:32 PM CDT|Updated: May. 28, 2015 at 11:05 PM CDT
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Human error is likely not the cause of a bizarre anthrax mistake that resulted in potentially-deadly bacteria being shipped via FedEx to 10 locations around the world, including Tennessee.

FedEx is currently working to determine whether any of the shipments were sent via the Memphis hub.

The anthrax shipments were made by the federal government. The U.S. Army chief of staff said the computer-based process of inactivating the military's anthrax samples failed, causing active shipments to go through FedEx.

The Pentagon emphasizes that public safety is not at risk.

"There is no known risk to the general public and no personnel have shown any signs of possible exposure," explained Col. Ronald Fizer, U.S. Army Dugway Proving Ground.

The shipments went to 20 labs in nine U.S. cities and an Army lab in South Korea.

FedEx released the following statement about the shipments:

“We can confirm that FedEx transported shipments for the Department of Defense (DOD) from the Dugway Proving Ground in Utah. All shipments have been safely delivered to their destinations without incident, and we're confident that none of the shipments compromised the health or safety of our employees or customers. We are working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to ensure appropriate shipping protocols, policies and regulations are followed by the DOD on future shipments.”

FedEx says it is working to determine the routing details for the Dugway shipments as some packages may have transited through Memphis.

It is unclear whether any FedEx employees came in contact with the white powder, but the Feds say everyone in the delivery chain will be under medical scrutiny.

"The symptoms can manifest themselves in 12 to 14 hours. There will be time to give them preventative antibiotics if the symptoms occur, to treat the infection rigorously," said Col. Fizer.

The anthrax was shipped in protective commercial FedEx packaging, but Department of Defense says live anthrax requires more secure packaging and warning labels.

Lab workers would also have been required to wear full protective suits to handle the shipment.

The government says no one has shown signs of exposure, but four civilian lab workers are taking antibiotics as a precaution.

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