.

Vials of Smallpox Found Unsecured in NIH Bethesda Storage Room

Vials of the most severe strain of smallpox were found unsecured in an unused storage room on the National Institutes of Health Bethesda campus. Authorities say there was no risk of public exposure to the disease.

Vials of the most severe strain of smallpox were found unsecured in an unused storage room on the National Institutes of Health Bethesda campus. File|Patch
Vials of the most severe strain of smallpox were found unsecured in an unused storage room on the National Institutes of Health Bethesda campus. 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 Bethesda.

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 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.

Most recently the NIH campus made news when a bear took a stroll onto the campus in June and perched in a tree near the Medical Center Metro station. As a crowd gathered to watch the bear, authorities tried to scare the animal out of its tree with firecracker-like devices, Patch earlier reported. After three hours, the 100-pound bear climbed down, was shot twice with a tranquilizer and released near the Potomac River unharmed. 

Rodger Higgins July 09, 2014 at 01:41 AM
Your government at work diligently preserving our way of life to make sure we are safe. How much safer can you get than a closet????
Gary Lee Ritchey July 09, 2014 at 07:27 AM
our tax dollars at work folks!.........news at 5, Jimmy Hoffa found operating railcar from Grand Central Station, collects 40 yr pension next year.............
jag July 10, 2014 at 02:39 AM
Yes, you're correct, Gary. Our tax dollars did help successfully eradicate this disease, saving the lives of millions of people every year.

Boards

More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something
See more »