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Safety blunders expose lab staff to potentially lethal diseases in UK

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Safety breaches at UK labs that handle harmful bacteria, viruses and fungi have spread infections to staff and exposed others to potentially lethal diseases, the Guardian has learned.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has investigated a series of mistakes over the past two years that led to scientists falling ill at specialist labs run by hospitals, private companies, and even Public Health England (PHE), the government agency which exists to protect and improve the nation’s health and wellbeing.

One scientist at a PHE laboratory became sick after contracting Shigella, a highly contagious bacterial infection that causes most cases of dysentery in Britain. The incident led the HSE to send the agency an enforcement letter to improve its health and safety practices.

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