Vials labeled with “smallpox” were found at a Merck facility in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, where vaccine research is conducted, but it is unclear why the vials were there, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Smallpox is caused by a virus that was eradicated from human transmission in the late 1970s after centuries of epidemics across the globe.
It is so deadly that only two laboratories in the world are allowed to have doses of the virus: the CDC main lab in Atlanta and a facility in Russia. The CDC said the frozen vials were “incidentally discovered” by a lab worker.
The discovery occurred at the Merck Upper Gwenydd facility in North Wales, about 30 miles northwest of Philadelphia, according to a source with knowledge of the ongoing situation.
It is not clear exactly when the vials were discovered. “Merck is in the process of figuring out why it was there,” the source told NBC10 on Wednesday. The CDC said an investigation is underway.