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Several forgotten vials of smallpox were discovered in an unused Bethesda, Massachusetts' FDA lab storage room, CDC officials said.
The vials, which appear to be from the 1950s, were labeled "variola" in the lab that was once used by the National Institutes of Health, but was handed over to the FDA in 1972. It appears they have been sitting in the storage room until their discovery last Tuesday as the lab was being packed up to be moved to the FDA main campus in Silver Spring.
None of the vials appear to have been opened and there is no threat of infection for anyone. The variola vials have since been moved to the CDC's Atlanta high-containment facility, where they will be tested to see if the samples are still usable and then they will be destroyed.
The FBI and the CDC's Division of Select Agents and Toxins are currently investigating how the smallpox samples came to be house in an FDA lab. The World Health Organization has also been kept informed of the situated and may be involved in the investigation.
According to USA Today, nearly one-third of those who become infected with smallpox will die.
Currently there are only two sanctioned smallpox facilities in the world, which WHO watches over. One is located in Atlanta and the other is the State Research Centre in Virology and Biotechnology in Novosibirsk, Russia.