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Russia explosion: Blast at mysterious facility housing Ebola, anthrax and smallpox

Neewilly Emmanuel Kweh

Sept. 17, 2019

A GAS explosion in a Russian laboratory took place in a mysterious facility housing viruses including deadly smallpox and Ebola.
The blast occurred during repairs to a sanitary inspection room on the fifth floor at the State Research Centre of Virology and Biotechnology, also known as Vector, in Koltsovo, the Novosibirsk region of Siberia. The explosion left one worker with third-degree burns and also blew out the glass in the building.
State-run TASS news agency reported the worker is in an “intensive” condition.
A fire also spread along 30 square metres, but this has since been extinguished.
RT, another state-run media outlet, said the fire was a “major incident”.
It added 13 fire trucks and 38 firefighters were dispatched by the Emergencies Ministry.
Russian authorities have confirmed no structural damage occurred to the building.
They also said the room held no biohazards substances.
The site is one of Russia’s main disease research centres.
It used to also house biological weapons reach during the Soviet era.
Vector is now one of two places in the world that still has the smallpox disease.
The US Centre for Disease Control in Atlanta is the only other high-security laboratory that stores the virus.
The Vector facility was founded in 1975.
Now it covers dozens of acres and employs thousands of workers.
Back in 2004, Ebola researcher Antonina Presnyakova died after sticking herself with a needle that carried the virus at Vector.
This incident raised “concerns about safety and secrecy”, according to the New York Times.
There was also a long delay in reporting the incident to the World Health Organisation.
This meant scientists at the agency “could not provide prompt advice on treatment that might have saved her life”.
Now Vector is considered one of the world’s leading epidemiological research centres.
It is also credited with developing an ebola vaccine this year.
Nikolai Krasnikov, head of the administration at Vector, told TASS in February: “Our scientists have wrapped up clinical trials of the Ebola vaccine this year.
“Now it is ready for use.”
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