Saturday, December 20, 2014
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

Creche collection grows in size, popularity

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Handmade Christmas display is man’s labor of love

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
 
 
Company competition a big win for charity

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A3 | Gallery

 
Meeting a great role model at any age

By Murray Bass | From Page: B5

Fairfield police log: Dec. 18, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A9

 
Suisun City police log: Dec. 18, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A9

Weather for Dec. 20, 2014

By Daily Republic | From Page: B12

 
.

US / World

Notorious California graffiti suspect arrested

By The Associated Press | From Page: A3, 1 Comment

 
Island park in San Francisco Bay closed for weekend

By The Associated Press | From Page: A3

 
Wetter than usual start to new year in California predicted

By The Associated Press | From Page: A3

Hospital to pay $2.2M to settle false claims

By The Associated Press | From Page: A3

 
Napolitano named as UC public policy professor

By The Associated Press | From Page: A3

Man shocked 20 times during jail booking sues

By The Associated Press | From Page: A3, 5 Comments

 
Animal rights activists take California rodeo to court

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

California’s bullet train settles 1 of 7 lawsuits

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4, 1 Comment

 
Tuskegee Airman Lowell Steward dies in California at 95

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4 | Gallery

Driver pleads not guilty in pedestrian deaths

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5, 2 Comments

 
Bush officials gave CIA wide latitude

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

Theater shooter’s parents plead for his life

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
Obama says North Korea hacked Sony, vows response

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6, 3 Comments

AP Interview: Coelho says Sony hack threatens all

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

 
5 ways to make your email safer in case of a hack attack

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

Celebrities react to latest Sony hack developments

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

 
Sony on shelving ‘The Interview': ‘We had no choice’

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

 
Lava could reach Hawaii shopping center in 8 days

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

Jury rules for Indiana woman in firing over IVF

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
Bergdahl investigation wraps up; top leaders get briefings

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

Texas eatery worker gets mink coat from customer

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
Sugarland, promoter settle with state fair victims

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

NY police officer suspended after videotaped punch

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
Prepackaged caramel apples linked to 4 deaths

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

Supreme Court won’t stop gay marriages in Florida

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
Staples: Customer data exposed in security breach

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

Australian woman arrested in deaths of 8 children

By The Associated Press | From Page: A11

 
Israel carries out airstrike on Hamas site in Gaza

By The Associated Press | From Page: A11

Pakistan executes militants and bombards tribal areas

By The Associated Press | From Page: A11

 
Franciscan religious order in ‘grave’ financial crisis

By The Associated Press | From Page: A11

.

Opinion

Yes, Virginia, the Santa wish list has gone digital

By Petula Dvorak | From Page: A8

 
Editorial Cartoon: Dec. 20, 2014

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
If you want to help the poor, fix the safety net

By Jim Tankersley | From Page: A8

.

Living

Community Calendar: Dec. 20, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2

 
Today in History: Dec. 20, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

Pampered pets that don duds move to the mainstream

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

 
Horoscopes: Dec. 20, 2014

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: B11

Children from wife’s first marriage put father’s ashes in coffin

By Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar | From Page: B11

 
.

Entertainment

More than 4 million people watched 1st dog telethon

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

 
Kim Jong Un game spoof ‘Glorious Leader!’ moving forward

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7 | Gallery

Marathon bombing survivor in ‘Yes to Dress’ finale

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

 
Kid Rock to perform pre-race concert at Daytona 500

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

Actor Stephen Collins denies he’s a pedophile in interview

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

 
.

Sports

Dodge, Vaca grad Mason lead Southern Oregon to NAIA title

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Raiders haven’t needed much from Janikowski

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
AP sources: Peavy agrees on $24M, 2-year deal with Giants

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

Dodgers end Yanks’ payroll streak, owe most tax

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
FIFA will not reopen 2018 and 2022 World Cup votes

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Howe’s family reports rapid improvement

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
2 Armstrong associates settle lawsuit with Landis

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Rays, Padres, Nats complete 11-player trade involving Myers

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Vanden girls open Nike TOC with win on Arizona

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B2

Things to know about Friday’s baseball news

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Rookie receivers making their mark in NFL

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Former boxing champ Ernie Terrell dies at 75

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Gold medalist Phelps pleads guilty to DUI, avoids jail time

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Cal men beat Eastern Washington 78-67 for seventh straight win

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

 
CIF football bowl games headed to Sacramento

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B3

This date in sports history for Saturday, Dec. 20, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

 
.

Business

California unemployment rate dips to 7.2 percent

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

 
Chrysler gives in to gov’t, expands air bag recall

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

T-Mobile paying at least $90M for unwanted services

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

 
EPA sets first national standard for coal waste

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

Sales for holiday shopping season comes down to the wire

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6 | Gallery

 
.

Obituaries

Dominic C. Scolaro

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
Marian Kay Zutz

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

Judy Zamora Rogers

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A4

 
.

Comics

For Better or Worse

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B10

 
Garfield

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B10

Baldo

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B10

 
Sally Forth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B10

Peanuts

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B10

 
Pickles

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B10

Baby Blues

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B10

 
Get Fuzzy

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B10

Dilbert

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B10

 
Rose is Rose

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B10

Blondie

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B10

 
Beetle Bailey

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B10

Wizard of Id

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B10

 
Frank and Ernest

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B10

Zits

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B10

 
B.C.

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B10

Cryptoquote

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B11

 
Crossword

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B11

Word Sleuth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B11

 
Sudoku

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B11

Bridge

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B11

 
.

Home Seller 12/20/14

Real estate transactions for Dec. 20, 2014

By Daily Republic | From Page: HSR2

Ask a Designer: decorating with Christmas trees

By The Associated Press | From Page: HSR2