Plague Mice Escape Newark Lab

Just when we we starting to breathe a sigh of relief, that nothing toxic appears to have escaped New Orleans’ anthrax labs. Now comes word, from the Star-Ledger, that three mice “carrying deadly strains of plague” have disappeared from the biodefense lab at the University of Medicine and Dentistry in Newark, N.J.

State Health Commissioner Fred Jacobs said mice infected with plague die “very fast,” so “the risk to the public … is probably slim to none. We didn’t think — nor did the CDC think — there was any public health threat…”
Infectious-disease experts… called the episode … very troubling — raising serious issues of security and control…
Richard H. Ebright, a Rutgers University microbiologist and a critic of the government’s rapid expansion of bio-terrorism labs… noted there has been a series of serious incidents across the country involving accidental human infections at several of the labs working with agents like anthrax and plague. At the same time, he said, federal guidelines call for only minimal security — a lock on the lab door and a lock on the sample container and cage.
“You have more security at a McDonald’s than at some of these facilities,” he said.

THERE’S MORE: Back in April of ’03, I profiled the lab’s chief, pacificst-turned-biodefender Nancy Connell, for Wired News.
AND MORE: Want an idea of how little oversight there is of these biodefense labs?

New Jersey… does not know how many labs in the state are actually conducting experiments involving lethal bacteria or viruses.
It was just Wednesday that the Emergency Health Powers Act was signed into law, requiring all people, companies or institutions working with or possessing disease strains that can be used for biological weapons to register with the state Department of Health and Senior Servicers.

  • jtw

    Hasnt this happened before? In the same place?
    I heard about infected rats escaping before, or being found in New Jersey.
    Or is this another US psyops news story that got recycled from the past?

  • Justin Mason

    For what it’s worth, bubonic plague is already endemic in parts of the continental US.
    Mind you, I found this surprising myself, when I first read about it on a sign in a campsite in California, so I took a photo:

  • DS

    ummmm….ok kids, can anyone guess how plague was spread in the Dark Age? you got it…MICE AND RATS.

  • Renee Skolar

    So these mice just walked off the job???? What, the rat race was too much for them??? Cry-mo-netti! It’s a good thing we got this Homeland Security stuff else I’d be worried that some maniac helped those mice *disappear* from the lab.

    • actually it was spread by fleas, so in that case any animal could have the diseased infected fleas on them.

  • Sherri

    Unless it was mutated into a strain (like DiNardo and Kate of NCIS), I’m not going to worry much about it. It’s easily treatable with many common antibiotics, and the symptoms are hard to miss, but you need to get treatment pretty fast. Here’s a great page on it:
    Make sure to read about the common children’s song still sung today, Samuel Pepys diary, and the Pied Piper. They didn’t mention John Donne’s, “Never send to know for whom the bell tolls. It tolls for thee.” But I learned about how the Japanese used it against the Chinese before WWII, which I didn’t know (or missed that class LOL).
    It spread through the FLEAS on rats. I learned about washing my dog with plan Dawn Dishwashing Detergent from a forwarded household hints email. It worked better than any pesticide shampoo I’d ever used before, and is much cheaper (and smells better), those fleas are DEAD fast! It works good on the cats too (hold them by the scruff of their neck like momma cat used to so they’ll be temporarily dazed and not shred you up).
    So if there’s an outbreak, be vigilent against fleas and learn the symptoms so you can call for an immediate appointment with the doctor. Meanwhile, I’ll worry about SARS mutating 8^P

  • Brian

    sherri don’t get too happy. bubonic plague can also manifest itself as pneumonic plague which is a whole different puppy. it’s easy to treat but it spreads like the common cold and kills very quickly. an outburst of that due to the joys of jet travel could be all over the world in a couple days. the biggest problem would be that while a modest amount of any antibiotic knocks it down pretty fast the world’s stockpiles are greatly inadequate given the speed the plague would pop up at.

  • Sherri

    Brian, I read a bit more after posting that, and read how the pnuemonic version is droplet spread. I agree that could become a problem pretty quick with people putting off going to the dr, or being told they can’t get in for an appt until 1-2 weeks when they try to make an appt.

  • Kilo Echo 4

    Here is the REAL story behind the ‘missing’ lab mice:

  • Silvia Teresa Osorio

    What about the threat of biochemical bombing predicted for the year 2013 to the US? There are panels and even Obama talked about it. We were surprised with 9/11. Are we prepared for a biochemmical bomb? It devastated countries in the middle east. How about if it happens to us?