A worrying explosion took place in a former biological weapons development center, which housed samples of an eradicated disease, infectious disease of viral origin, highly contagious and epidemic. Russia denies the existence of a risk of contamination
Russia denied on Tuesday the risk of contamination after an explosion and fire broke out in a former Soviet-era biological weapons development center, one of the two laboratories in the world to contain smallpox virus vials.
The explosion took place on Monday, September 16, 2019, in “Vektor”, currently a research center in the field of viruses and biotechnologies administered by the Russian government, which contains, among others, the Ebola virus.
The laboratories of this center are located in the Novosibirsk region.
According to the Rospotrebnadzor health surveillance agency, the explosion was triggered by a gas cylinder and set off a fire in the research areas, injuring one of the employees.
The windows were broken, but the structure of the building resisted and no dangerous substance was present in the rooms affected by the accident, according to the same source.
The fire was isolated on Monday, local authorities told Russian news agencies.
The laboratory is known for developing vaccines against Ebola and hepatitis, but also for studying other epidemic diseases. Samples of Ebola, anthrax, and plague are still in the institute’s building, according to Ukrinform.ua.
The explosion, which took place near Novosibirsk, the third-largest city in Russia with a population of over 1.5 million, represents the latest catastrophe from a longer series of events that have affected recent months a series of strategic infrastructures in this country.
Dozens of people were injured in three explosions produced in weapon facilities and ammunition depots located in central and southern Russia and Siberia.
At the beginning of July 2019, 14 officers from the Russian navy died in a fire blown aboard a mysterious nuclear-powered submarine sailing the Arctic Ocean. Partially keeping the secret to the tragedy, the Moscow authorities gave assurances saying that the nuclear reactor was not affected by that fire.
In August, a nuclear explosion struck at least five victims in a missile launch base in northern Russia during tests targeting new weapons. The explosion produced a small increase in radioactivity in the area, according to authorities.
Smallpox is an infectious disease of viral origin, highly contagious and epidemic, caused by a virus in the family poxviridae. By the eighteenth century, the disease had tens of thousands of victims every year in Europe.
Smallpox was completely eradicated on October 26, 1971, thanks to a campaign started by the World Health Organization (WHO), which combined massive vaccination campaigns since 1958, with a “surveillance and isolation strategy”, implemented since 1967.
In the 21st century, the virus still exists only in the form of samples, which are preserved in WHO-accredited research laboratories.