One of the most deadly Smallpox virus samples in the world has been accidentally found at a Merck vaccine facility while cleaning. The virus is considered so deadly that only two labs in the world are authorized to store samples of it, one in Russia and the other at the CDC in Atlanta. Meanwhile, Bill Gates has warned governments to prepare for smallpox terror attacks and future pandemics by investing billions into a global pandemic task force running “germ games” to prepare for future outbreaks or biological attacks.
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Several frozen vials labeled “smallpox” were discovered by a laboratory worker while cleaning out a freezer in a facility that conducts vaccine research in Pennsylvania, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed to Fox News.
“There is no indication that anyone has been exposed to the small number of frozen vials,” a CDC spokeswoman said via email.
CDC, its administration partners and law enforcement are investigating the matter and the vials’ contents appear intact. The laboratory worker who discovered the vials was wearing gloves and a face mask. The organization will provide further details as they are available.
According to Yahoo News, which cited an alert sent to Department of Homeland Security leadership, the vials were reportedly found in a freezer Monday night at a Merck facility outside Philadelphia.
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The closest Merck sites to Philadelphia are the sprawling campuses in West Point and North Wales, Montgomery County, although 6abc Action News could not confirm there are questionable vials inside either building.
There were reportedly a total of 15 questionable vials, according to the unclassified “For Official Use Only” alert, a copy of which was obtained by Yahoo News. Five of the vials were labeled “smallpox” and 10 were labeled “vaccinia.” The vials were secured immediately.
CDC’s website says smallpox, a disease caused by the variola virus, was eradicated thanks to the success of vaccination and no cases of naturally occurring smallpox have happened since 1977. The last natural outbreak of smallpox in the United States occurred in 1949.
The virus is considered so deadly that only two labs in the world are authorized to store samples of it, one in Russia and the other at the CDC in Atlanta.
Scientists have debated for years whether or not to destroy the remaining samples. Those in favor of keeping them have argued they are needed to develop new vaccines in response to a new outbreak.
The CDC will arrive on site Wednesday to take custody of the vials and transport them to another facility for testing, the alert notes.
Meanwhile, Bill Gates has warned governments to prepare for smallpox terror attacks and future pandemics by investing billions into a global pandemic task force running “germ games” to prepare for future outbreaks or biological attacks.
The Microsoft founder suggested that the ‘germ games’ could prepare nations for bio-terrorism such as smallpox attacks on airports. Mr Gates warned that bioterrorism caused epidemics could be worse than naturally occurring ones.