Vials labeled ‘Smallpox’ discovered in Pennsylvania lab freezer
Frozen vials labeled “Smallpox” were recently discovered by a laboratory worker at a Pennsylvania facility that conducts vaccine research, federal officials said.
The vials were found while the worker was clearing out a freezer at the unspecified facility, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“CDC, its administration partners, and law enforcement are investigating the matter and the vials’ contents appear intact,” a CDC spokesperson told The Associated Press.
“The laboratory worker who discovered the vials was wearing gloves and a face mask. There is no indication that anyone has been exposed to the small number of frozen vials.”
Smallpox is a deadly disease that was globally eradicated in 1980.
Caused by the variola virus, smallpox plagued the world for centuries and killed nearly a third of the people it infected.
The World Health Organization designated two sites in the world where stocks of variola virus are stored and used for research: the CDC facility in Atlanta and a center in Russia.
The CDC said smallpox research in the US revolves around the development of vaccines, drugs and diagnostic tests to protect people against the infectious disease in the event that it is used as an agent of bioterrorism.