FDA releases more information on smallpox incident

A U.S. Food and Drug Administration update released on Wednesday provided more details on the finding of biological samples in a cold storage area on the National Institutes of Health campus earlier this month.

A federal investigation into the incident found 12 boxes with a total of 327 vials of biological agents including dengue, influenza, Q fever and rickettsia, according to an FDA press release.

Six vials labeled variola, the causative agent in smallpox, along with 10 others with unclear labeling were transported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention high-containment facility in Atlanta, Ga. An additional 32 samples were destroyed at the NIH campus after an inventory of the vials, including four labeled as the virus used to make the smallpox vaccine.

The remaining samples were transferred to the Department of Homeland Security's National Bioforensic Analysis Center (NBFAC) in Maryland. The release of the update on the incident was made possible once the samples successfully arrived at the NBFAC.

The collection of samples in NIH storage was mostly likely assembled between 1946-1964. The vials labeled as infectious agents were glass and heat-sealed. They were intact and free of leakage, and there is no evidence that anyone was exposed to the agents inside.

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