Smallpox virus
Image: Camazine Scott | Photo Researchers | Getty Images

The FBI is investigating several vials of smallpox that were found in an unused laboratory storage room on the National Institutes of Health campus in Bethesda, Maryland. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has taken the vials for testing.

Only July 1, employees found the box of vials when they were cleaning out the storage room in preparation to move the lab, which has been operated by the Food and Drug Administration since 1972, over to the FDA’s main campus in nearby Silver Spring.

The six freeze-dried vials were labeled as containing variola, which the CDC says is “the severe and most common form of smallpox.” Another 10 vials were also found, but the labels on them were unclear as to what they contained, Dr. Steven Monroe, who directs the CDC’s division of high consequence pathogens and pathology, told ABC News.

No one knows how long the smallpox has been in the storage area, which is kept at 5 degrees Celsius. But the boxes they were stored in may date back to the 1950s, CDC spokesman Tom Skinner said.

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