A researcher at a Merck plant outside Philadelphia found several vials labeled “smallpox,” according to a local television station.
The vials were found in a freezer Monday night and an alarm was sent out to the Department of Homeland Security, reports WPVI. The news media noted that there are two Merck locations near Philadelphia, but it said it could not confirm where the vials were discovered.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said in an email to The Hill that “there is no evidence that anyone has been exposed to the small number of frozen vials.”
“The frozen vials labeled ‘Smalpox’ were accidentally discovered by a laboratory worker while cleaning a freezer in a facility conducting vaccine research in Pennsylvania. The CDC, its administrative partners and law enforcement agencies are investigating the case and the contents of the vial appear to be intact.” , said the CDC.
“The lab worker who discovered the vials was wearing gloves and a face mask. We will provide further details as they become available,” the CDC added.
Yahoo News reports that the CDC will arrive at the lab on Wednesday to grab the vials.
According to Yahoo News, smallpox, also known scientifically as the variola virus, is so deadly that only two laboratories worldwide are allowed to store samples of it, one is in Russia and the other is in a CDC location in Atlanta. .
In 1980, the World Health Organization declared that smallpox had been eradicated globally following joint vaccination efforts across nations.
Prior to widespread vaccination, the highly contagious virus infected about 15 million people each year, killing nearly a third of them, the WPVI noted, adding that the last outbreak in the United States was in 1947.
Merck, the Department of Homeland Security and the National Institutes of Health did not immediately respond to a request for comment.