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By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

7/9/2014 (9 months ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Disease was scourge of humanity for centuries

There were sighs of relief when someone made a discovery in a disused closet. Many thanked the Lord that it didn't fall into the wrong hands. An employee at the National Institutes of Health found vials of smallpox, the onetime scourge of humanity, in a storage room.

The FBI is investigating how the samples ended up where they did.

The FBI is investigating how the samples ended up where they did.

Highlights

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

7/9/2014 (9 months ago)

Published in Health

Keywords: Smallpox, Centers for Disease Control, variola


LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Labelled as variola, smallpox has been considered an eradicated disease ever since 1980. The last known outbreak in the U.S. was in 1947 in New York. The disease has dropped off the map after successful worldwide vaccination programs.

Authorities say that the vials appear to date back to the 1950s. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a statement on the discovery earlier this week.

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The vials were found when scientists prepared to move a lab from the Food and Drug Administration's Bethesda, Maryland, campus to a different location. The laboratory had been used by the NIH but had been transferred to the FDA in 1972. The vials were located in an unused part of a storeroom.

Once discovered, scientists immediately put them in a containment lab. The branch of the government that deals with toxic substances called the Division of Select Agents and Toxins on the first of this month.

The CDC says there is no evidence that any of the vials was breached, nor were any of the lab workers exposed to the virus.

Law enforcement agencies transferred the vials to the CDC's high-containment facility in Atlanta earlier this week. Testing confirmed that there was variola virus DNA in the vials. Scientists will do some more testing to see if it could grow in tissue culture. Once the tests are done, the CDC will destroy the samples.

The initial or prodromal symptoms of smallpox are similar to other viral diseases such as influenza and the common cold: fever of at least 38.5 C (101 F), muscle pain, malaise, headache and prostration. As the digestive tract is commonly involved, nausea and vomiting and backache often occur. The prodrome, or pre-eruptive stage, usually lasts two to four days. By days 12-15 the first visible lesions-small reddish spots called enanthem-appear on mucous membranes of the mouth, tongue, palate, and throat, and temperature falls to near normal. These lesions rapidly enlarge and rupture, releasing large amounts of virus into the saliva.

The CDC is one of only two official World Health Organization designated repositories for smallpox; the other is in Novosibirsk, Russia. The CDC let the WHO know about the find and invited the WHO to witness the destruction of the vials, which is the standard protocol any time anyone finds smallpox samples unexpectedly.

The FBI is investigating how the samples ended up where they did.

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