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CDC: deadly frozen virus labeled “smallpox” found in Merck lab while cleaning freezer

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Deadly Frozen viruses labeled “smallpox” were found in the freezer of a vaccine development facility in Pennsylvania by a laboratory worker, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The vials were accidentally discovered by the lab worker while cleaning out a freezer in a facility that is conducting vaccine tests in Pennsylvania, according to reports.

The CDC claimed in an email that no one has been “exposed to a number of frozen vials.”

Investigations are ongoing by the CDC, its administration allies, and law enforcement, and the vials appear to be intact.

Photo by Scott A. Miller/Getty Images

Discovery of the Vials

The lab worker who found the vials was wearing a face mask and gloves. Meanwhile, the organization said it would provide further details once available.

Yahoo! News, which cited an alert sent to Department of Homeland Security leadership, reported that vials were reportedly discovered in a freezer at a Merck facility outside Philadelphia on Monday evening.

The nearest Merck sites to Philadelphia are the expansive campuses located in West Point and North Wales, Montgomery County, although, according to 6ABC Action News, it could not verify if there are questionable vials inside any of the buildings.

A copy of the report obtained by Yahoo! News specified, there were reportedly 15 questionable vials in all, as indicated in the unclassified “For Official Use Only” alert.

Five of these vials had a “smallpox” label, while 10 had a “vaccinia” label. The said vials were secured immediately, according to the report.

What is Smallpox?

On its website, the CDC has described smallpox as a disease caused by the variola virus. It was eradicated because of the success of vaccination, and no cases of naturally occurring smallpox have occurred and been reported since 1977.

The last natural outbreak of smallpox in the United States took place in 1949. The virus was considered so fatal that only two laboratories worldwide are authorized to store specimens of it, including one in Russia and another one at the Atlanta-based CDC.

For years now, scientists have been debated whether or not to destroy the remaining specimens. Those who wanted to keep them contended there was a need to develop new vaccines in the fight against a new outbreak.

In a separate CDC report, it was specified that before the eradication of smallpox, the virus spread through direct and relatively prolonged face-to-face contact between people.

Patients became infectious when the initial sores appeared in their mouth and throat. This is identified as the early rash stage. They stayed infectious until the last smallpox scab fell off.


This report said, most Americans are not yet vaccinated against smallpox, and those who have received their vaccine would have possibly fading immunity.

The CDC was scheduled to arrive this week to take custody of the vials and take them to another facility for examination. Merck, for its part, has not immediately responded to a request for comment on the issue.

Report about the accidental discovery of the vials is shown on 6abc Philadelphia’s YouTube video below:

Image Credit: Image Credit: AP/Seth Wenig

You were reading: CDC: deadly frozen virus labeled “smallpox” found in Merck research site while cleaning freezer

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