U.S. Locks Down Smallpox Vials Found Forgotten in Closet

Emergency personnel participate in a 2003 terrorism drill in Seattle. Forgotten vials of smallpox have been found at a U.S. government facility in Bethesda, Md.
National Journal
Diane Barnes
July 8, 2014, 11:20 a.m.

Small­pox, an erad­ic­ated scourge feared for its weapons po­ten­tial, has turned up in for­got­ten vi­als at a U.S. gov­ern­ment fa­cil­ity.

Work­ers dis­covered con­tain­ers of the deadly vir­us as they emp­tied out a Food and Drug Ad­min­is­tra­tion branch of­fice at the Na­tion­al In­sti­tutes of Health cam­pus in Beth­esda, Md., the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion an­nounced on Tues­day. Bar­ring any secret stock­pile, the last small­pox in ex­ist­ence was thought to be held at tightly guarded fa­cil­it­ies in At­lanta and Nov­os­ibirsk, Rus­sia.

“The vi­als ap­pear to date from the 1950s,” ac­cord­ing to a CDC state­ment. “Upon dis­cov­ery, the vi­als were im­me­di­ately se­cured in a CDC-re­gistered se­lect agent con­tain­ment labor­at­ory in Beth­esda.”

“There is no evid­ence that any of the vi­als … has been breached, and on-site biosafety per­son­nel have not iden­ti­fied any in­fec­tious ex­pos­ure risk to lab work­ers or the pub­lic,” the press re­lease says. “Late on Ju­ly 7, the vi­als were trans­por­ted safely and se­curely with the as­sist­ance of fed­er­al and loc­al law en­force­ment agen­cies to CDC’s high-con­tain­ment fa­cil­ity in At­lanta.”

Cen­ter ana­lysts con­firmed the pres­ence of small­pox DNA in the vi­als, and fur­ther tests are ex­pec­ted to de­term­ine if the ma­ter­i­al could still have caused in­fec­tion.

“This test­ing could take up to 2 weeks. After com­ple­tion of this test­ing, the samples will be des­troyed,” the agency said.

“CDC has no­ti­fied [the World Health Or­gan­iz­a­tion] about the dis­cov­ery, and WHO has been in­vited to par­ti­cip­ate in the in­vest­ig­a­tion. If vi­able small­pox is present, WHO will be in­vited to wit­ness the de­struc­tion of these small­pox ma­ter­i­als, as has been the pre­ced­ent for oth­er cases where small­pox samples have been found out­side of the two of­fi­cial re­pos­it­or­ies.”

What We're Following See More »
THE 1%
Sanders’s Appeals to Minorities Still Filtered Through Wall Street Talk
52 minutes ago

It’s all about the 1% and Wall Street versus everyone else for Bernie Sanders—even when he’s talking about race relations. Like Hillary Clinton, he needs to appeal to African-American and Hispanic voters in coming states, but he insists on doing so through his lens of class warfare. When he got a question from the moderators about the plight of black America, he noted that during the great recession, African Americans “lost half their wealth,” and “instead of tax breaks for billionaires,” a Sanders presidency would deliver jobs for kids. On the very next question, he downplayed the role of race in inequality, saying, “It’s a racial issue, but it’s also a general economic issue.”

Clinton Already Pivoting Her Messaging
1 hours ago

It’s been said in just about every news story since New Hampshire: the primaries are headed to states where Hillary Clinton will do well among minority voters. Leaving nothing to chance, she underscored that point in her opening statement in the Milwaukee debate tonight, saying more needs to be done to help “African Americans who face discrimination in the job market” and immigrant families. She also made an explicit reference to “equal pay for women’s work.” Those boxes she’s checking are no coincidence: if she wins women, blacks and Hispanics, she wins the nomination.

How Many Jobs Would Be Lost Under Bernie Sanders’s Single-Payer System?
9 hours ago

More than 11 million, according to Manhattan Institute fellow Yevgeniy Feyman, writing in RealClearPolicy.

State to Release 550 More Clinton Emails on Saturday
9 hours ago

Under pressure from a judge, the State Department will release about 550 of Hillary Clinton’s emails—“roughly 14 percent of the 3,700 remaining Clinton emails—on Saturday, in the middle of the Presidents Day holiday weekend.” All of the emails were supposed to have been released last month. Related: State subpoenaed the Clinton Foundation last year, which brings the total number of current Clinton investigations to four, says the Daily Caller.

Jim Webb Rules Out Independent Bid
9 hours ago

UPDATED: Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA) will not be playing the role of Ralph Nader in this year’s election. Speaking in Dallas today, Webb said, “We looked at the possibility of an independent candidacy. Theoretically, it could be done, but it is enormously costly and time sensitive, and I don’t see the fundraising trajectory where we could make a realistic run.”