Smallpox is a disease so virulent and deadly that it’s only allowed to be kept in two places on the entire planet, both of them regularly inspected by the World Health Organization. So when an FDA scientist found 16 vials containing the disease in a storage room in Bethesda, everyone was pretty surprised.
The good news: No one appears to have been exposed. The bad news: This is kind of a major oops. If this were an action movie instead of real life, you can bet this sort of mistake would lead to worldwide disaster. (The disease was eradicated in the U.S. by the 1950s.)
The smallpox vials, which were over 50 years old, were only found because the FDA was moving equipment out of a lab. “This certainly is an unusual event,” said CDC spokesman Tom Skinner. Let’s hope so.
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