C.D.C. Says ‘Smallpox’ Vials Found in Lab Did Not Contain Disease-Causing Virus
The US Centers for Disease Control says vials found at a New Jersey laboratory were not part of an ongoing effort to trace leftover “Smallpox” samples from the Cold War.
The New Jersey Medical Examiner’s Office announced on Friday that they had discovered two unidentified vials of possible human waste at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, where the samples had been stored since 1995.
The vials were meant to be used as part of a government effort to trace leftover “Smallpox” samples from the Cold War, CNN reported. The vials were labelled as “sample no. 2,” and contained the potential remains of a virus.
A full-blown investigation is now underway to find out if the samples contained the disease, but according to the CDC it “is unlikely” as there are currently no known cases in the US of new human diseases arising after exposure to “Smallpox” samples.
“While there are currently no known cases of new human diseases arising after exposure to ‘Smallpox’ samples from this laboratory, we are investigating the specific nature of these samples as part of an ongoing effort to better understand the possibility of infectious disease emerging as a result of smallpox exposure or study with such knowledge.”
The CDC said lab personnel immediately destroyed the samples when they were discovered, and the initial preliminary test results show they did not contain live virus. Further testing is currently being conducted, they said.
In the CDC’s response to the incident, published on the agency’s website on Friday, Dr. Rebecca McComb, an infectious disease physician at the CDC, explains that “different strains of viruses can be found in both active and re-infected individuals and they do not always infect the same person, so this potential exposure is an example of the possibilities that we must never overlook while developing strategies to protect our country.”
New details about the specific nature of the exposed virus are not yet available, but according to the CDC, these samples could be from the late 1980s or early 1990s.
According to CNN, the CDC has said there was no indication that there was “widespread impact on health or public safety.”
It is also not yet clear whether the original smallpox samples collected in the 1970s were included in the samples possibly still in the laboratory, the agency said in a statement.
—With additional reporting by CNN