The Center for Virus Research in Russia – one of the two places in the world to host smallpox virus – exploded on Monday, officials said.
The blast at the State Virology and Biotechnology Research Center, or Vector, left an employee injured and the building, located in Koltsovo, near the Siberian city of Novosibirsk, survived without structural damage, according to a statement from the facility.
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The suspected gas explosion took place on the fifth floor of a 6-storey concrete plan.
Nikolai Krasnikov, the head of Koltsovo ̵
The facility in Russia, established in 1974, is one of two places where the variola virus, otherwise known as the deadly measles infectious disease, is stored. Another place is the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, GAO.
Described as "one of the most devastating diseases in the world known to mankind", smallpox was declared eradicated by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 1980 after a worldwide immunization campaign.
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But after rooting it out, scientists and public health officials believe that research is still needed and agreed worldwide – USA, Russia, England and South Africa.
Within years, England and South Africa have either destroyed their virus stockpiles or transferred them to other laboratories – leaving the US and Russia to be the only sites left to store the deadly disease, according to the CDC.
In 2016, the WHO identified the vector facility "as being found to be in compliance with international levels of biosafety and biosecurity for variola virus testing. ch and storage. "
The Ebola virus, also a rare and deadly disease, is also stored in the Vector Lab. In 2004, The New York Times reported that a Russian scientist in the lab had died after accidentally stabbing himself with a needle containing a non-vaccine Ebola. The incident was reported to have occurred on May 5, but the research lab did not report it to the WHO until later that month – raising concerns about the level of secrecy surrounding the facility.
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The latest explosion is after two incidents that occurred in Russia last month. Mass explosions were first reported at a military ammunition depot near the city of Achinsk in the Krasnoyarsk region of eastern Siberia.
Then followed the deadly explosion of a military-weapons test at Ninoxa, killing at least five people in the far north of the Arkhangelsk region. Authorities say the explosion occurred while engineers are testing a "nuclear isotope" for a rocket and were thrown into the sea by the explosion.