Vials With Smallpox Labels Found at Vaccine Lab

By Robert Preidt and Robin Foster
Health Day reporter

THURSDAY, Nov. 18, 2021 (HealthDay News) – Several frozen vials labeled “smallpox” were discovered at a vaccine research facility in Pennsylvania, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

There is no indication that anyone was exposed to what was in the vials, the agency noted.

The vials were found by a lab worker while cleaning a freezer at a facility that conducts vaccine research. The CDC and law enforcement are investigating the case and the contents of the vials appear to be intact, the CDC said in a statement to CNN.

“The lab worker who discovered the vials was wearing gloves and a face shield. We will provide further details as they become available,” the agency added.

Before being declared eradicated in 1980 by the World Health Organization, the easily transmitted virus infected up to 15 million people per year and killed around 30%, CNN reported. The last known epidemic in the United States dates back to 1947.

In 2014, National Institutes of Health (NIH) employees found six vials of smallpox in an unused storage room as they filled a lab on the NIH campus in Bethesda, Md., To move it. Two of the vials contained viable virus. The CDC said at the time that there was no evidence that anyone was exposed to the contents of any of the vials.

There is disagreement among governments over whether to keep smallpox samples or destroy all known copies. Routine smallpox vaccination ceased in 1972, but military personnel and some researchers are still being vaccinated, CNN reported. The CDC recommends that people who need long-term protection receive smallpox boosters every 3 to 5 years, although at least one study has found that the vaccine could protect recipients for life.

More information

Visit the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to learn more about smallpox.


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