Oops! CDC says that smallpox did not turn up at Atlanta facility

The Department of Health and Human Services said late Friday that there is “no risk to public health” after the department confirmed that two vials of what appeared to be smallpox — but was later determined to contain dengue virus — were discovered at a government facility in Atlanta, according to CNN.

The vials were reportedly found at the National Institutes of Health’s National Bioethics Center on Thursday.

The smallpox specimens did not contain smallpox itself, but rather a part of dengue virus and were initially believed to contain smallpox, according to CNN. The vials were in an old laboratory container, which was likely filled with air-blown vials that were damaged.

“Disease detection staff at the center have determined that samples found on Thursday were not from the smallpox strain in the Screven Field Laboratory,” a CDC spokesman said in a statement. “The results indicate a foreign-origin risk for dengue virus in one case.”

The Department of Health and Human Services had just on Thursday posted the following release about the discovery to Twitter:

CDC scientists have discovered two vials of what appear to be smallpox at the National Bioethics Center (NBEC) on the NIH campus. There is no public health risk. Updates will be provided as they become available. pic.twitter.com/JZ5UnDfC9H — CDC (@CDCgov) July 20, 2018

The release had also added: “Inspectors who are regularly accessing the NBEC are now being asked to remove protective clothing as they are not exposed to smallpox or any other potential public health risk.”

First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon asked in a statement how the discovery happened and the U.K. Government confirmed it was not connected to the Panicked weather, which has seen “unprecedented demands on a small army of experienced resilience operators” across the U.K. and in the U.S.

The move by the U.K. Government had been somewhat bewildering, as the U.K. is well practiced in its handling of smallpox — more than 20 specimens were destroyed by the U.K. Government in 2017 — so it is rather surprising that the vials were not immediately identifiable.

“Uncertainty and anxiety is understandable,” Sturgeon said. “The relevant departments have worked quickly to clarify details and to get the facts into the public domain, and our first concern is with the safety and security of those involved in the handling of the matter and any individuals potentially exposed.”

Read the full story at CNN.


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