Fort Detrick Anthrax Survivor Shares Story

5:12 AM, Jan 6, 2011   |    comments
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FREDERICK, Md. (WUSA) -- Fifty years ago Bernard "Lefty" Kreh was accidentally infected with Anthrax. He survived.

At the time, he couldn't tell anyone because Kreh worked at Fort Detrick in the Biological Weapons Program.

"1947 I began to work at Fort Detrick. Right after World War II," Kreh said.

He worked in the Pilot Plant-- building number 431-- growing bacteria.

"We grew 1800 gallons of silicosis, tularemia, anthrax. And we would concentrate that."

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But one day something went terribly wrong.

"I must have had a tear in the suit," Kreh said anthrax seeped in and infected the skin on his arm.

"I ended up in the hospital with this thing, and my arm actually went black from about my elbow down," he said.

Kreh said he went to the medical office at Fort Detrick, and was put into isolation for two months.

"My wife and my little girl would come to see me," he said. "They could look through a window at me, but allowed no visitors."

Besides his immediate family, Kreh says no one else outside the base could know what was happening to him.

"Everything has always been secret at Fort Detrick," said Orley Bourland-- Kreh's former supervisor. "Lefty went through an antibiotic regimen. And that was it."

Bourland said two other men at Fort Detrick died from anthrax. Kreh not only survived, but scientists used him to create the BVK-1 anthrax strain.

"My initials are B.V.K." Kreh said. His real name is Bernard V. Kreh-- but he's gone by "Lefty" his whole life. "I never expected to get an anthrax named after me."

Now Kreh worries about Fort Detrick's reputation. He's afraid people view the experiments that went on there, to those that happened in Nazi Germany. Kreh was in the Army during World War II.

"We liberated a Concentration Camp," he said what he saw there is nothing like what went on at Fort Detrick. "They had lamp shades made out of the skin of people."

He says he's never had any long term side effects from the biological agents he was exposed to at Fort Detrick.

"At Fort Detrick we were trying to save everybody we possibly could," Kreh said.

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