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Who had the worst week in Washington? The FDA and CDC

July 21, 2014 - 12:05am

I don’t know about you, but I like my deadly pathogens accounted for by the people who are in charge of that sort of thing.

That’s why the news coming out of the Food and Drug Administration this past week was so troubling. (And yes, I have seen “Contagion” too many times.)

Turns out that the FDA discovered smallpox, the virus behind dengue fever, a bacteria that causes spotted fever, and something called Q fever (sounds horrible) just sitting in a cold-storage room — OK, they were in vials, but still — at the National Institutes of Health in Maryland.

“The reasons why these samples went unnoticed for this long is something that we’re actively trying to understand,” said Peter Marks, the deputy director of the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research. Um, no duh.

Those revelations came in the same week that Thomas Frieden, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, testified on Capitol Hill about the 80 CDC employees who may have been exposed to live anthrax bacteria in June. He added that there had been a number of incidents of mishandling of potentially deadly viruses over the past decade at the organization.

“We missed a critical pattern,” Frieden said. “And the pattern is an insufficient culture of safety.” Again, no duh.

A reminder: These are the people — and the organizations — we entrust with handling the deadliest viruses in the world because they’re supposedly so careful and diligent about how they do their jobs. Or not.

The FDA and the CDC, for ensuring that I will have nightmares for weeks, you had the worst week in Washington. Congrats, or something.

Cillizza covers the White House for The Washington Post and writes The Fix, its politics blog.

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