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Influenza vials: Disturbing find in cold storage unit as some date back to 1940s

Influenza vials make for a disturbing discovery at the cold storage unit at the FDA.
Influenza vials make for a disturbing discovery at the cold storage unit at the FDA.
Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Influenza vials were discovered in a cold storage unit of a Washington lab that date as far back as 1946 and continue over the years up to 1964. The 327 vials carry the labels for highly contagious influenza viruses and deadly bacteria, which brings up new concerns about the government being able to keep track of such deadly pathogens.

No one had a clue that these vials were tucked into the corner of a cold storage room at the National Institutes of Health in suburban Washington. This area has been used by the FDA since 1972, according to News Max on July 17.

This find comes on the heels of the 12 vials of the smallpox samples discovered at the same lab. There was no documentation for any of the vials in this find or the previous find of the smallpox samples. The vials contain strains of influenza, dengue and rickettsia. The carefully packaged vials were not leaking and still intact, according to Fox News.

When the staff at the FDA stumbled upon the vials, they called for the experts to come in and remove them. They first secured the vials and made sure that there was no exposure to the highly contiguous strains inside those vials.

Several of the vials were sent to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention to be analyzed because they were unmarked. The agency destroyed 32 vials that contained tissue samples and a non-contagious virus that is related to smallpox. The majority of the vials, 279 of them, were sent to the Homeland Security for "safe keeping," reports News Max.

The heat-sealed glass vials showed no signs of leakage, so whoever stored them decades ago took great care when preparing them for storage. With smallpox declared eradicated in 1980, the findings of the freeze-dried smallpox a few weeks back in the same cold storage unit was disturbing. The World Health Agency believed that the only samples in existence of the smallpox was safely "super-secured" in laboratories in Atlanta and Russia.

These latest discoveries has prompted the FDA to due a nationwide search of all their cold storage units to see if other undocumented vials of pathogens exist. Karen Midthun, who is the director of the FDA's biologic said, "The fact that these materials were not discovered until now is unacceptable."