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Vials of Smallpox Found Unsecured in Maryland; Sent to CDC

Vials of the most severe strain of smallpox were found in a storage room in Maryland. They are now at the Centers for Disease Control for destruction.

Vials of the most severe strain of smallpox were found in an unused storage room on the National Institutes of Health campus in Maryland. They are now awaiting destruction at the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta. File|Patch
Vials of the most severe strain of smallpox were found in an unused storage room on the National Institutes of Health campus in Maryland. They are now awaiting destruction at the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta. File|Patch

Vials from the 1950s containing the most severe form of smallpox were found recently in an unused storage room in a Food and Drug Administration lab in Maryland, but are now secure in Atlanta.

On July 1, the National Institutes of Health notified Atlanta’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that employees unearthed the vials in storage on the NIH Bethesda, MD, campus. The scientists discovered the vials while preparing for the lab’s move to the FDA’s main campus, according to a CDC statement.  

Authorities said there was no indication that anyone had been exposed to smallpox, and they said no risk to workers or the public has been found from the decades-old vials, reports The Washington Post. The last smallpox case in the United States occurred in 1949.

Scientists at the CDC confirmed Monday that the vials contained smallpox. Additional tests over the next two weeks will determine if the smallpox is able to grow in tissue cultures, then the samples will be destroyed, CDC authorities said.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation, along with the CDC’s Division of Select Agents and Toxins, is investigating how the samples were prepared and stored.

Smallpox can only be kept in two locations in the world, says The Post, both of them inspected by the World Health Organization. One repository is the CDC in Atlanta and the other is the State Research Center of Virology and Biotechnology in Novosibirsk, Russia.

Last month, CDC officials came under scrutiny when about 75 workers were notified they might have been accidentally exposed to anthrax bacteria because of a safety problem in a lab, Patch earlier reported. Agency officials said the staff members are being monitored or given antibiotics as a precaution against exposure to the disease-causing bacteria.

Richard Clemons July 09, 2014 at 06:46 AM
Kind of makes you wonder how many wayward, "decades old" vials of the most virulent disease known to mankind there are laying about in the nooks and crannies of the USA and Russia. It also makes me wonder what the anti-vaxxers would do in the face of such a resurrected plague.
Cleon July 09, 2014 at 02:22 PM
Anyone figure out how to blame this on Obama yet?

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