American Lab Locked Down After Terrifying Find, CDC and FBI Investigating

American Lab Locked Down After Terrifying Find, CDC and FBI Investigating

( – A Merck medical research lab in Pennsylvania went into lockdown on Tuesday, November 16, after workers made a shocking discovery. While cleaning out a freezer, they identified five suspicious vials labeled “Smallpox” alongside a handful of vials labeled “vaccinia.” Staff immediately reported the find, prompting the CDC and FBI to launch an investigation that eventually came to a surprising end.

A statement published by the CDC further explains what the vials contained and why the troubling find wasn’t what it first seemed. Rather than having the variola virus, which causes smallpox in humans, the five vials contained a virus called vaccinia instead. That’s the version contained within the smallpox vaccine.

The CDC also says no one was exposed to the contents within the vials. Therefore, they do not expect an outbreak or infections to stem from the incident.

Smallpox is a severe viral infection the US eradicated mainly by the late 20th Century. Doctors haven’t positively identified a naturally-occurring case since 1949. Still, it remains an ever-present concern, as statistics suggest it was likely responsible for the deaths of some 300 million people before that point.

Unlike chickenpox, smallpox invades small blood vessels throughout the body. As a result, lesions form on the skin that eventually turns into pus-filled blisters. Severe cases often leave patients blind, permanently disfigured, or even dead.

Smallpox is so dangerous that only two labs in the world are permitted to hold samples of the virus for testing and research purposes: the CDCs central lab in Atlanta, Georgia, and a second facility somewhere in Russia.

While technically eradicated from nature and thus, no longer a threat outside of bioterrorism attacks, smallpox remains on the CDC’s radar. In fact, the organization claims it maintains a stock of enough vaccines to inoculate every American.

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