During the first week of July, scientists found numerous vials of smallpox, which is considered one of the deadliest diseases ever to exist, in a vacant storage room at the National Institutes of Health in Maryland. This is according to representatives who work at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or CDC. The containers were labeled with the name “variola”, which is the official name for smallpox. The NIH alerted the Division of Select Agents and Toxins or DSAT of what had been found. It was reported that the vials supposedly dated back to the 1950’s. They were immediately placed inside a CDC containment lab, reports the CDC, which was first alerted by the NIH about the smallpox on July 1. The bottles were found while the NIH was preparing to move to the FDA’s main grounds.
On July 7, the containers were moved to the CDC’s high containment building in Atlanta. Scientists performed overnight genetic testing on the contents of the vials and it was confirmed that the containers held the smallpox virus DNA. However it will take more testing to see if the DNA could actually grow into tissue cultures and reproduce and spread. After the needed tests are performed, the samples will then be destroyed. This follows the guide for other sample of smallpox which has been discovered outside of the only two certified storage buildings that exist on the globe. Testing might take nearly two weeks. After that, the CDC scientists will terminate the smallpox samples.
Officials state that there is no health risk from any of the vials to NIH employees or the general public. When smallpox ran rampant, it is thought the disease killed over one-third of its sufferers and is believed to have killed just over 500 million individuals. It shattered populations around the entire world for nearly 3,000 years until being officially eliminated by vaccines in 1980. However there continues to be constant concern that smallpox might be used in some sort of bio-terrorist attack.
The World Health Organization has set aside two storing areas for smallpox. One is at the CDC itself and the other is in Russia at the State Research Center of Virology and Biotechnology. The WHO supervises the assessment of each facility and verifies the security and safety of each one.
The CDC, DSAT and the WHO are working along with the FBI in a combined investigation to try and see how the smallpox came to be in Maryland in the first place. They want to discover how the samples were prepared and then placed in the empty storage room without anyone finding them. If the vials are holding viable smallpox, the CDC will have officials with the WHO in Atlanta when the CDC performs the eradication. This is the normal practice when smallpox is discovered outside of the two authorized storage sites, explained the CDC.
This find is actually the second time this year in which federal agencies were troubled about possible exposure to another killer bug. In June, the CDC declared that around 75 CDC scientists might have been exposed to live anthrax microbes when a safety lapse occurred. Most were given antibiotics as a safeguard, even though no one showed signs of symptoms.
Repeating: scientists found numerous vials of smallpox, which is considered one of the deadliest diseases ever to exist, in a vacant storage room at the National Institutes of Health in Maryland. This is according to representatives who work at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or CDC.
By Kimberly Ruble