Vials marked “smallpox” did not contain the virus

by mcardinal

Lauren Moye, FISM NEWS


The Center for Disease Control confirmed that vials marked “Smallpox” in a Pennsylvania laboratory did not actually contain the virus.

The CDC released the following statement on Thursday: “Laboratory testing at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) today showed that recently discovered vials marked as “smallpox” contain vaccinia, the virus used in smallpox vaccine. There is no evidence that the vials contain variola virus, the cause of smallpox.”

According to Mark O’Neill, a spokesperson for the Pennsylvania Department of Health who corresponded with the New York Times, the vials were found at a Merck facility that was conducting vaccine research. On Nov. 15, a worker at this Montgomery County laboratory discovered multiple frozen vials with the word “smallpox” written on them while cleaning out a freezer, sparking public concern.

CDC Spokesperson Belsie González wrote in an email at the time of the announcement that the vials’ contents appeared to be fully intact. She added, “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.”

According to a professor of chemical biology, the concern should be over inadequate safety within the lab rather than fear of a viral outbreak. It is unknown why the vials of vaccinia were in the freezer.

The CDC stated they will continue “close contact with state and local health officials, law enforcement, and the World Health Organization about these findings.”

The World Health Organization only lists two sites – one in Atlanta, Georgia and the other in Russia – where the variola virus is stored for research use. Additionally, there has only been one prior discovery of unaccounted smallpox samples within the U.S. This occurred in 2014 when freeze-dried variola virus samples were discovered in a storage room in Bethesda, Maryland.

The variola virus once infected countries around the world. Smallpox was dangerous because of its high fatality rate at killing one-third of all infected individuals. The disease is marked by high fevers, body aches, and blisters on the body.

However, the development of the vaccine helped reduce the infection rate. The last natural outbreak in the U.S. occurred in 1949. Smallpox was dropped from routine childhood vaccination schedules in the 1970s.