Explosion sparks fire at Russian lab that stored smallpox

Explosion sparks fire at Russian lab that stored smallpox
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An explosion took place on Monday night at a Russian biological research facility which is reportedly one of two centers in the world that keeps samples of the smallpox virus.

The explosion at the Russian State Centre for Research on Virology and Biotechnology occurred when a gas cylinder exploded on the fifth floor of the laboratory during repairs to a sanitary inspection room, the facility wrote in a statement.

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One worker was injured in the explosion and was transported to a burn center, where he is in intensive care, a Russian news agency reported.

The city’s mayor said the blast does not pose any threat to the population, the news agency reported, and that no biohazard material was being stored in the inspection room.

Dr. Joseph Kam, an honorary clinical associate professor at the Stanley Ho Centre for Emerging Infectious Diseases, told CNN that there are strict rules for storing highly infectious diseases but added that an explosion could lead to a virus spreading and infecting those nearby.

“Part of the wave of the force of the explosion would carry it away from the site when it was first stored," he said.

The worldwide research center has been developing vaccines for swine flu, HIV and Ebola, the Russian news agency reported.

The second center in the world that is approved to house live samples of the smallpox virus is the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, according to CNN.