|Photograph of a smallpox victim appeared in the Baltimore Health News in 1939.|
- The world is run by fucking idiots. A total of 16 vials of the smallpox virus from the 1950s were discovered just laying around in a government storage room in Maryland.
- Smallpox was responsible for up to 500 million deaths during the 20th century.
- Smallpox has a 35% mortality rate.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) revealed Tuesday that six decades-old vials of the smallpox virus were discovered earlier this month at a government laboratory in Bethesda, Md.
The extremely rare discovery comes 35 years after the deadly and highly infectious virus was eradicated, and raises questions about safety rules in federal research facilities.
The NIH said that the vials have been transferred to a high-security facility in Atlanta run by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one of only two sites in the world where the smallpox virus is permitted to exist reports The Hill.
U.S. officials are now conducting tests to determine whether the viral samples are active and could grow in human tissue. After that, according to the NIH, the samples will be destroyed, with the World Health Organization invited to observe.
It was the second recent incident in which a U.S. government health agency appeared to have mishandled a highly dangerous germ. Last month, scores of CDC employees in Atlanta were feared exposed to anthrax because of a laboratory safety lapse. The CDC began giving them antibiotics as a precaution.
The freeze-dried smallpox samples were found in a building at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, that has been used by the Food and Drug Administration since 1972, according to the CDC.
The scientist was cleaning out a cold room between two laboratories on July 1 when he made the discovery, FDA officials said according to the Associated Press.
Officials said labeling indicated the smallpox had been put in the vials in the 1950s. But they said it's not clear how long the vials had been in the building, which did not open until the 1960s.
They passed through a containment lab in Bethesda on their way to the official repository in Atlanta, where they were delivered late Monday night, the NIH said.
The institute said that there is "no evidence" that any of the vials were breached, nor signs that lab workers or the public were at risk of exposure.
Nonetheless, the discovery is likely to prompt investigations into how unauthorized samples of the virus were able to remain unnoticed on government property for so long.
The existence of the vials violates the international agreement designed to limit smallpox, which is considered a potential terrorist threat. The virus is permitted only for study in the Atlanta lab and at a similar facility in Russia.
Scientists found the samples while preparing to move the laboratory to the Food and Drug Administration campus in nearby Silver Spring, Md.
A total of 16 vials were discovered, according to ABC News, but only six tested positive for the smallpox virus.
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