Friday, February 27, 2015
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Forgotten vials of smallpox found in storage room

By
From page A16 | July 10, 2014 |

ATLANTA — A government scientist cleaning out an old storage room at a research center near Washington made a startling discovery last week — decades-old vials of smallpox packed away and forgotten in a cardboard box.

The six glass vials were intact and sealed, and scientists have yet to establish whether the virus is dead or alive, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday.

Still, the find was disturbing because for decades after smallpox was declared eradicated in 1980, world health authorities said the only known samples left were safely stored in super-secure laboratories in Atlanta and in Russia.

Officials said this is the first time in the U.S. that unaccounted-for smallpox has been discovered. But at least one leading scientist raised the possibility that there are more such vials out there around the world.

The CDC and the FBI are investigating.

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.

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.

No one has been infected, and no smallpox contamination was found in the building.

Smallpox can be deadly even after it is freeze-dried, but the virus usually has to be kept cold to remain alive and dangerous.

In an interview Tuesday, a CDC official said he believed the vials were stored for many years at room temperature, which would suggest the samples are dead. But FDA officials said later in the day that the smallpox was in cold storage for decades.

“We don’t yet know if it’s live and infectious,” said Stephan Monroe, deputy director of the CDC center that handles highly dangerous infectious agents.

The samples were rushed under FBI protection to the CDC in Atlanta for testing, after which they will be destroyed.

Peter Marks, deputy director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Research and Evaluation, said the discovery was unexpected but not a total shock. He added, however, that “no one’s denying we should have done a better job cleaning out what was there.”

In at least one other such episode, vials of smallpox were found at the bottom of a freezer in an Eastern European country in the 1990s, according to Dr. David Heymann, a former World Health Organization official who is now a professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

Heymann said that when smallpox samples were gathered up for destruction decades ago, requests went out to ministers of health to collect all vials.

“As far as I know, there was never a confirmation they had checked in with all groups who could have had the virus,” he said.

Dr. Donald “D.A.” Henderson, who led the WHO smallpox-eradication effort and is now a professor at the Center for Health Security at the University of Pittsburgh, said it is highly unlikely more such stashes will be discovered. But he conceded “things were pretty casual” in the 1950s.

Decades ago, he recalled, “I came back from many a trip carrying specimens, and I just put them in the refrigerator until I could get them to a laboratory. My wife didn’t appreciate that.”

Smallpox was one of the most lethal diseases in history. For centuries, it killed about one-third of the people it infected, and left most survivors with deep scars on their faces from the pus-filled lesions.

The last known case was in Britain in 1978, when a university photographer who worked above a lab handling smallpox died after being accidentally exposed to it through the ventilation system.

Global vaccination campaigns finally brought smallpox under control. After it was declared eradicated, all known remaining samples of live virus were stored at a CDC lab in Atlanta and at a Russian lab in Novosibirsk, Siberia.

The labs take extreme precautions. Scientists must undergo fingerprint or retinal scans to get inside, they wear full-body suits including gloves and goggles, and they shower with strong disinfectant before leaving the labs.

There has long been debate over whether to destroy the stockpile.

Many scientists argue that any remaining samples pose a threat and that the deadly virus should be wiped off the planet altogether. Others contend the samples are needed for research on better treatments and vaccines.

At its recent annual meeting in May, WHO put off a decision again.

 

The Associated Press

The Associated Press

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | No comments

The Daily Republic does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

.

Solano News

 
Fairfield mayor ready to share a whale of a tale

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: B1, 2 Comments

 
Nonagenarian recounts life as spy in World War II

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: B1

 
 
2-day event will focus on bullying prevention

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A3, 1 Comment

 
Republican women to hear about immigration reform

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A3, 1 Comment

 
Wolk to chair committee on state’s wine industry

By Kevin W. Green | From Page: A4

 
Kaiser offers Capoot scholarships

By Bill Hicks | From Page: A4

 
Suisun City police log: Feb. 25, 2015

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

 
Fairfield police log: Feb. 25, 2015

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

.

US / World

Llamas on the loose trends on Twitter

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
Two inured in hazmat explosion

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

No charges yet for train crash truck driver

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

 
Not guilty plea for suspect in Hollywood exec murder

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
After 67 years of marriage, couple dies holding hands

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

Missing 400-year-old Italian books found in California

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
Sacramento man pressured to remove swastikas

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5, 3 Comments

Feds: 3 accused in Islamic State plot vocal about beliefs

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

 
Saudi man convicted of conspiracy in ’98 US embassy bombings

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

 
Panel: Use new meningitis vaccines only for outbreaks

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

 
House GOP weighs new approach on Homeland Security

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

Vandalism in Arizona shows the Internet’s vulnerability

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

 
Prosecutor: Mom craved attention, poisoned child with salt

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

Ukraine, rebels start pulling back heavy weapons in the east

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
‘Jihadi John’ raised in UK, studied computers, reports say

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

Militants abduct more Christians, smash ancient artifacts

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
.

Living

Community Calendar: Feb. 27, 2015

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2

 
Today in History: Feb. 27, 2015

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

Horoscopes: Feb. 27, 2015

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: A9

 
I’m worried about how my wife’s erratic behavior is affecting our kids

By Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar | From Page: A9

.

Entertainment

Week in preview Feb. 27-March 5, 2015

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: B1

 
Conan O’Brien takes his show to Cuba for a special hour

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Review: Smith, Robbie pour on the charm in sharp ‘Focus’

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Custom dress Lupita Nyong’o wore at Oscars reported stolen

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

ABC’s Sawyer does prime-time prison special

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

 
Q&A: Writer-director-actor Mark Duplass is a busy guy

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

Actor Will Patton charged with DUI in native South Carolina

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

 
AP Exclusive: Redmayne lends voice to “Thomas & Friends”

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

Entertainment Calendar: Feb. 27, 2015

By Susan Hiland | From Page: B4

 
Tea Leoni in a happy state as star of ‘Madam Secretary’

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

TVGrid

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Graceland brings Elvis back to his Las Vegas home

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

.

Sports

LeBron scores 42, Cavs beat Warriors for 18th win in last 20

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7

 
 
A’s begin baseball’s mandatory domestic violence training

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7

Earthquakes set to open new MLS stadium

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7

 
IOC member, once critical of Rio, now sees ‘great progress’

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

Judge rules for Peterson, opening door for reinstatement

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

 
Herman survives windy day; McIlroy stumbles at Honda Classic

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

Roberts, NBA writers open discussion over locker room access

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

 
IOC relaxes rule on athletes and sponsors during Olympics

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

Nevada gambling regulators sign off on Olympic betting

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

 
Video shows Hernandez dancing near gas pump before killing

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

Kings’ Collison to have surgery, re-evaluated in 3-6 weeks

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

 
AP source: 49ers to bid to host college football title game

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

 
Bulls say Rose to have surgery on Friday

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

NASCAR back on track for extra day of testing in Atlanta

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

 
No word on possible MLB discipline for Angels star Hamilton

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

Giants closer Casilla hit on shin during batting practice

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

 
LeBron not happy colleges recruiting 10-year-old son

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

.

Business

Volkswagen Jetta is a pleasure to live with, not just to gawk at

By Washington Post | From Page: C1 | Gallery

 
5 things to know about ‘net neutrality’

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

Regulators approve tougher rules for Internet providers

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

 
Strong reliability scores should help Buick brand’s rebirth

By The Associated Press | From Page: C2

Nissan executive known as ‘father of the Z’ dies at 105

By The Associated Press | From Page: C2

 
Walmart CEO wading through mounting issues

By The Associated Press | From Page: B11

Pew study: Americans still stressed despite improved economy

By The Associated Press | From Page: B11

 
Facebook allows users to ‘fill in’ gender option

By The Associated Press | From Page: B11, 1 Comment

Medical marijuana passes tough first hurdle in Utah

By The Associated Press | From Page: B11

 
Applications for US jobless aid rise to 313,000

By The Associated Press | From Page: B11

Google looks for more revenue from ads in Android app store

By The Associated Press | From Page: B11

 
.

Obituaries

Donald Grimm

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
.

Comics

Baldo

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
For Better or Worse

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Sally Forth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Dilbert

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Peanuts

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Beetle Bailey

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Pickles

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Garfield

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Frank and Ernest

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Baby Blues

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

B.C.

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Get Fuzzy

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Rose is Rose

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Wizard of Id

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Zits

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Blondie

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Cryptoquote

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

 
Bridge

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

Word Sleuth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

 
Sudoku

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

Crossword

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9