In a shocking revelation, decades-old vials of smallpox have been found in the laboratory of the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland.
This is the second incident within a month showcasing the lackadaisical approach of the US health agency in mishandling of a highly dangerous pathogen.
The vials of smallpox were found when a US government official was cleaning out a storage room at one of the laboratory of the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda.
It is noteworthy, this is for the first time when the deadly virus has been discovered outside the two facilities in the world where smallpox samples are allowed to be kept.
According to an international agreement, smallpox samples are allowed to be stored only at a highly secure lab in Atlanta, USA and a virology and biotechnology research center in Novosibirsk, Russia.
In this scenario, the big question rises is how the smallpox came to be stored at the laboratory.
The vials appear to date from the 1950s. According to the sources, the vials were flown on Sunday night by a government plane to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia for further probe.
Preliminary probe has confirmed the presence of smallpox virus DNA. Further testing will continue. The samples will be destroyed after the testing is completed.
Meanwhile, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the CDC’s division of select agents and toxins are probing the matter.
According to the initial probe, there is no evidence about any case of breach in the vials or any misconduct by the workers in the lab.
Smallpox, which was eradicated globally by 1980, killed hundreds of millions of people in the 20th century alone.
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