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Science & Technology

Vials marked 'smallpox' found in US laboratory

November 18, 2021 | Comment icon 28 comments

How many more vials of smallpox could be out there ? Image Credit: Pixabay / fernandozhiminaicela
The vials were discovered quite by accident by a laboratory worker who had been cleaning out a freezer.
Smallpox, which is caused by the variola virus, is simultaneously one of the worst diseases in the history of mankind and one of modern medicine's greatest success stories, given that a concerted vaccination effort ultimately succeeded in wiping it out completely.

There are however still a limited number of vials containing samples of the disease being kept securely at laboratories for research purposes - a point of contention among many who would prefer to have seen every single trace of smallpox destroyed, making it impossible for it to ever infect anyone again.

Authorities have always maintained that there is no risk because the samples are being kept securely, however this assertion has now been cast into doubt following the recent discovery of several vials marked 'smallpox' by a laboratory worker who had been cleaning out a freezer.

The find, which was made in Pennsylvania, is now being formally investigated.
"CDC, its administration partners, and law enforcement are investigating the matter and the vials' contents appear intact," said CDC spokesperson Belsie Gonzalez.

"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."

Whether or not the vials actually do contain smallpox currently remains unclear, but if they do, there will need to be a serious investigation into how this could have happened and whether or not there are other vials of this deadly disease out there, just waiting to be found by unsuspecting lab workers.

Source: Sky News | Comments (28)

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Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #19 Posted by ChrLzs 20 days ago
Merck needs to be thoroughly audited over this.  I used to manage a marine research centre that included a biolab for testing of water quality and seafood, esp. oysters...  That section of the centre was very strictly controlled and continuously checked (including every item in every freezer or fridge or temp control cabinet) - it had to be in order to keep its certification.  Anyone in Oz who deals with this sort of stuff needs to be certified, adhere to a whole pile of very precise procedures and are subject to random visits/audits - obviously, Merck haven't ever been properly audited. Heads... [More]
Comment icon #20 Posted by susieice 20 days ago
I have to agree. There are tight regulations here in the US too. I don't see how these 15 vials could have been overlooked from 1980 when they should have been destroyed, until now. That's 41 years! Surely they've cleaned that freezer in all that time and it should have been inventoried regularly also. Dates on vials checked regularly, temperature control charts filled out, etc. You have to do that with medications in a nursing facility daily. Merck is saying they don't know when or how they got there. I don't get it. There's a big investigation going now. Philadelphia news has said they will ... [More]
Comment icon #21 Posted by DarkHunter 20 days ago
It doesnt really who has samples of smallpox virus now.  Technology has increased and all the information required is already out in the public domain to recreate the smallpox virus from scratch. It hasnt been done yet, atleast officially, but the horsepox virus a close relative of the smallpox virus was successfully recreated from scratch.  It's not currently cheap or easy but it's not insanely difficult relatively or necessarily cost prohibitive either.  Everything one needs can be acquired relatively easily, assuming one has the funds, with seemingly not much regulation in place to stop bad... [More]
Comment icon #22 Posted by aztek 20 days ago
and i do not believe it for a second,  of course they say they had no idea, if the did, they would be committing several felonies at least. they would also be a link to those who got them the vials, they knew, they brought the sample there.
Comment icon #23 Posted by susieice 20 days ago
They got there somehow. And I don't believe they were just mistakenly overlooked by everyone for all those years. 
Comment icon #24 Posted by MysteryMike 19 days ago
This here is why we can't trust governments. Fully of shadiness.
Comment icon #25 Posted by Jon the frog 19 days ago
It make me think of the manga 20th Century Boys and 21th Century Boys ... the covid situation too...
Comment icon #26 Posted by susieice 19 days ago
6ABC is the only site I found to link, but they say no trace of smallpox was found in any of the vials. They were all vaccinia, which is what the smallpox vaccination is made from. https://6abc.com/smallpox-vials-pa-merck-facility-cdc-vaccine-research-pennsylvania/11251577/ Just found another one. https://www.nbcphiladelphia.com/news/local/vials-found-at-montco-lab-did-not-contain-smallpox-virus-cdc-says/3053220/ I still question why Merck said they didn't know those vials were there.
Comment icon #27 Posted by godnodog 19 days ago
How to delete comment?
Comment icon #28 Posted by godnodog 19 days ago
No, this example is why we never should assume that everything is 100% resolved unless there is full audits. People in government are no different from people in private, all have interest, competences and flaws. I trust my cereals maker company as much as the government. I, for example, don't trust you or anyone to cook,  but nevertheless I would still need to give you a chance if I want to eat.

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