A deadly virus vial missing from the Galveston National Laboratory has been the subject of much media attention, as the happenstance basically sounds exactly like the start of every epic apocalypse tale we’ve ever heard.
What we do know is that while the deadly virus vial does not contain the next Captain Trips, the germ still could cause some serious risk if it were to begin infecting people.
The deadly virus vial contains a hemorrhagic fever causing illness known as Guanarito virus, not unlike the Ebola virus. ABC spoke with experts about the missing vial of deadly virus, and Dr. William Schaffner, chairman of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, said the incident is quite embarrassing for the University of Texas Medical Center, from which it went missing:
“This is clearly an incident that is very discomforting and embarrassing to the and their national biosecurity lab that they have there … You can be sure there are a lot of sweating people down the chain at that institution.”
Michael Kurilla, the NIH’s director of the Office of Biodefense Research Affairs, said that while risk of death from the virus is not massive, it still poses a grave threat given the fact that no treatment or cure exists for those who may contract it:
“The mortality is anywhere from at least 10 to 20 percent or slightly more … That is considered very, very severe if you have a 1 in 5 chance of dying without anything to do for the person other than provide supportive hospital care.”
While the missing deadly virus vial has caused understandable alarm, the University of Texas Medical Center staff believes that it was likely destroyed “during normal laboratory sterilization practices.”
Schaffner explains that the deadly virus vial may never be traced if a clerical error is to blame, saying:
“I suspect that they may not ever be able to account for it if it was that kind of human error … This is a record-keeping issue, which means it was a human issue, which means doing that kind of tedious, important work, there was just a momentary slip up.”
Experts believe theft of the deadly virus vial is an unlikely explanation for the breach.