Vials of a smallpox-causing virus in a lab's storage room.
On Tuesday, the CDC announced that it found vials of a smallpox-causing virus in a lab's storage room. ABC News notes that the presence of the vials technically violates an international agreement reached in 1979 limiting the virus's presence to only two labs in the world: a different lab in the U.S., and one in Russia. And, as everybody knows from the X-Files, the government used small-pox to test its plan to spread an alien disease through bee stings, so it's been nice knowing you, internet.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the vials "appear to be from the 1950s," meaning they predate the international agreement. They were found in a Food and Drug Administration lab previously used by the National Institutes of Health. There was no evidence that the vials had been tampered with or unsealed, the CDC added, so that's good.
The vials have since been transferred to the smallpox-approved CDC lab in Atlanta, where they'll undergo further testing before destruction. The CDC isn't sure how the vials ended up hanging out in that unauthorized lab for so long, but they're investigating with the help of the Division of Select Agents and Toxins and the FBI. According to NBC, this is the first time the government has found vials of unauthorized smallpox.
Smallpox has been eradicated worldwide, but samples of the virus are kept for research. As the CDC notes, the last case in the U.S. was in 1949, with the last naturally-occurring case of the disease worldwide in 1977, in Somalia.