March 25, 2013
Deadly Virus Discovered Missing From Texas Laboratory
redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online
A vial containing a potentially deadly strain of virus has disappeared from a secure laboratory at the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) in Galveston, various media outlets reported on Sunday.
According to Click2Houston.com, the virus, which was contained in a locked freezer at UTMB´s Galveston National Laboratory, contained less than one-fourth of a teaspoon of a virus known as Guanarito — a virus native only to Venezuela that can cause an illness known as viral hemorrhagic fever (VHF).
UTMB officials said that there´s “no reason to believe there's a threat to the public,” according to the Associated Press (AP).
They told the AP that there appeared to be no breach in the facility´s security and no indication of wrongdoing, and that they “suspect the missing vial containing the Guanarito virus was destroyed during the lab's cleaning process.”
The vial was discovered missing during a routine inspection on Wednesday. Officials at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) were notified immediately. Meanwhile, the university is still investigating the incident and is reviewing its security process to ensure that their researchers and employees — as well as the community at large — will remain safe and secure.
“The medical branch says the virus, native to Venezuela, is transmitted only through contact with Venezuelan rats. It is not believed to be able to survive in US rodents or to be transmitted person-to-person,” the AP said.
Symptoms of VHF include fever, fatigue, dizziness, muscle aches, loss of strength and exhaustion, according to the CDC. In severe cases, the condition can cause bleeding under the skin, in internal organs or from a person´s eyes, ears or mouth.
Patients rarely die as a result of blood loss, but VHF can cause shock, nervous system malfunction, coma, seizures and in some cases, kidney failure. Beyond supportive therapy (therapy designed to reinforce or sustain a patient´s psychological well being) there is “no other treatment or established cure for VHFs,” the US health agency said.