‘Smallpox’ vials discovered in a Pennsylvania facility, according to the CDC, do not contain smallpox virus.


‘Smallpox’ vials discovered in a Pennsylvania facility, according to the CDC, do not contain smallpox virus.

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Federal health officials say frozen vials labeled “Smallpox” found in a Pennsylvania vaccine research facility “contain no trace of virus known to cause smallpox.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the vials contain “vaccinia, the virus used in smallpox vaccine,” not the variola virus, which causes smallpox.

The vials “were discovered by accident by a laboratory worker” who was cleaning out the freezer while wearing gloves and a face mask, the CDC said Monday.

No one was harmed, according to the CDC.

According to the New York Times, the vials were discovered at a Merck facility in Montgomery County, according to a spokesperson for the Pennsylvania Department of Health.

The reason for the vials being in the freezer was unknown.

The CDC said the findings were being discussed “in close contact with state and local health officials, law enforcement, and the World Health Organization.”

In the 1960s, children waited in line for smallpox vaccines in Gloucester City, New Jersey. (Photo courtesy of Jim Sheridan)

Smallpox is a deadly, infectious disease that has afflicted people all over the world for centuries, killing nearly a third of those infected.

Victims experienced a scorching fever and body aches, followed by spots and blisters that left pitted scars.

By the early 1970s, the United States had stopped routine childhood vaccination against the disease, and the country’s last natural outbreak had occurred in 1949.

Smallpox was declared eradicated by the World Health Assembly in 1980.

The World Health Organization has designated two sites where variola virus stocks are stored and used for research: the CDC facility in Atlanta and a center in Russia.

According to the CDC, smallpox research in the United States is focused on developing vaccines, drugs, and diagnostic tests to protect people from smallpox in the event that it is used as a bioterrorism agent.

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