Vials labeled ‘smallpox’ don’t contain virus, CDC says

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FILE – Micrograph of smallpox viruses. Vials labeled “smallpox” were found in a lab near Philadelphia Monday. (Photo: Getty Images)

Recently discovered vials labeled “smallpox” contain vaccinia — the virus used in the smallpox vaccine — the Centers for Disease Control Prevention determined after laboratory testing.

There is no evidence the vials contain variola, the virus that causes smallpox, the CDC said. Information about the discovery is being shared with law enforcement, the World Health Organization and other officials.

A researcher at a Merck facility outside of Philadelphia found several vials that were labeled “smallpox” inside a freezer Monday night.

According to Yahoo News, smallpox is so deadly that only two labs worldwide are authorized to store samples of it. One is in Russia and the other is at a CDC site in Atlanta. 

In 1980, the World Health Organization declared that smallpox had been globally eradicated following joint vaccination efforts across nations. 

No one was exposed to the contents of the newly discovered vials, the CDC said.

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