Image copyright AFP Image caption A Google image search found no other images of a ‘smallpox’ vial in the lab
Contaminated documents have been found in a C.D.C. laboratory containing vials containing potentially deadly smallpox, but the samples do not appear to have actually contained the disease.
The labs in Virginia and Maryland were temporarily closed after exposure of workers to smallpox from a broken video camera.
Doctors tracking the samples are trying to eradicate the virus.
The samples, which were thought to be degraded, were stored in hot, dry environments, the C.D.C. said.
While it’s likely that the protective plastic packaging was broken off, it does not appear as if smallpox was ever in the vials.
The C.D.C said the samples and video footage had been decontaminated, as well as the chemical – nicknamed “taint”.
Image copyright AFP Image caption Video footage shows researchers playing basketball at the C.D.C. in Maryland
Researchers in Maryland have been the subject of an investigation since Friday after showing staff in Virginia the video.
The video showed a man shooting a basketball towards a green screen that was set up in the laboratory.
A NASA security camera showed a man, believed to be one of the researchers in Maryland, wearing what appeared to be a C.D.C. lab coat and boots, playing a game on an Xbox 360 with two men dressed in L. Ron Hubbard-style “Star Trek” uniforms.
The National Institutes of Health said that multiple large samples and smaller samples were contaminated with the cold-like agent, “which would make mixing and potentially burning any deadly pathogens unstable”.
Image copyright AFP Image caption The labs will remain closed until further notice
After the inspectors concluded that the vials in Maryland did not contain smallpox or its close relatives, or any viable samples, the labs were closed.
Once the vials have been decontaminated and every precaution is taken, researchers will gather and destroy the material “as quickly as possible”.
The C.D.C said the contamination appeared to have occurred during the late stages of the smallpox process.
Smallpox has been contained globally for decades. The cold and dry conditions that the vials were exposed to are needed for the virus to survive, but it may not be possible to destroy them using the correct chemical treatment.
A map provided by the C.D.C. explains how global storage of smallpox was at risk
Smallpox has always been considered a “deadly weapon”