Vials of Smallpox Virus Found in Unapproved Maryland Lab

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Once it was considered eradicated, the World Health Assembly agreed that all labs would either destroy their stockpiles of the virus or send them to one of two labs for study. Earlier this year at the World Health Assembly, scientists voted not to destroy the remaining smallpox stockpiles.

Monroe said no other smallpox vials had turned up unexpectedly since the 1979 agreement.

“We can’t say with 100 percent certainty there are no other vials like this,” he said.

PHOTO: Smallpox legions are shown on a patient in this 1973 photograph in Bangladesh.
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PHOTO: Smallpox legions are shown on a patient in this 1973 photograph in Bangladesh.

WHO has been notified of the discovery and will send a representative to witness the destroying of the virus.

Peter Mark, deputy director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, said the FDA took over regulating vaccines from the NIH 40 years ago, which may offer clues about how the box containing smallpox vials was left behind. He said the FDA suspects that someone involved in smallpox research in the 1950’s may have left it.

The matter is still under investigation.

ABC News' Dr. Richard Besser contributed to this story.

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