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Explosion in Russian laboratory where smallpox samples are kept / Boing Boing



The Russian State Center for Virology and Biotechnology Research (Vector) near Novosibirsk, Siberia, has seen an explosion and a fire. According to vector officials, there is currently no risk of contamination. Vector and the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are the only licensed laboratories to store smallpox in living samples. The World Health Organization certified the eradication of smallpox in 1980 thanks to global vaccination efforts. However, there is still concern that the deadly virus could continue to be used as a bioweapon. From CNN:

In his statement, Vector said that no biohazardous material was stored in the room where the explosion took place. The city mayor also insisted that the incident, according to TASS, was not a biological or other threat to the local population …

Dr. Joseph Kam, Honorary Clinical Associate Professor at the Stanley Ho Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases (CEID), told CNN that virus retention policies are very stringent and that high-risk diseases such as ebola and smallpox are kept in the highest "Level 4" lab.

Access to samples would be restricted, special containers used and storage mechanism different from other laboratories, Kam said.

He added that although the fire is hot enough to destroy viruses, an explosion could harbor the risk of virus spreading and there is a risk that those in the room will be infected or the immediate area contaminated.

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David Pescovitz

David Pescovitz is co-editor of Boing Boing. On Instagram he is @pesco.

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