A lab worker at the Merck facility in Philadelphia reportedly discovered vials labeled “smallpox,” per WPVI-TV, a local news station in Philadelphia.
- “The frozen vials labeled ‘Smallpox’ were incidentally discovered by a laboratory worker while cleaning out a freezer in a facility that conducts vaccine research in Pennsylvania. CDC, its administration partners, and law enforcement are investigating the matter and the vials’ contents appear intact,” the CDC said.
- “The laboratory worker who discovered the vials was wearing gloves and a face mask. We will provide further details as they are available,” the CDC added.
Something similar happened in 2014. Employees of the National Institutes of Health found six vials of smallpox in a storage room in the NIH’s campus in Maryland, CNN reports.
- Two of the vials had the actual virus inside, according to CNN.
- The CDC said at the time that there was no evidence anyone had been exposed to the virus.
Yahoo News reports that smallpox can be so deadly that only two labs in the world can store samples of it. One of them is in Atlanta at the CDC headquarters and the other is in Russia.
The CDC said after smallpox was eliminated from the world, routine vaccination against smallpox among the general public was stopped because it was no longer needed. However, some people need long-term protection against smallpox and should get boosters every three to five years.