Russian Research Facility Known For Housing Smallpox Rocked By Explosion

The State Research Center of Virology and Biotechnology in Siberia — one of two biological research facilities in the world known to house living samples of the smallpox virus — was rocked by an explosion and subsequent fire on Monday.

Located in Koltsovo city, the research center, commonly referred to as the Vector Institute, suffered the explosion during maintenance work. Head city administrator Nikolai Krasnikov said the incident posed no threat to the community and that no biohazard substances were involved.

The other site home to the live virus is the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia. This facility has also faced scrutiny over safety concerns.

USA Today investigated failures at the centers and in 2016 reported on “a 2009 incident where scientists in biohazard suits could see light seeping into a decontamination chamber where workers who’d just done work with deadly pathogens were supposed to be doused in a chemical shower.”

The World Health Organization declared smallpox eradicated in 1980, with the last known outbreak in 1977.

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