Russian Laboratory That Houses Variola Virus Samples Took Fire, But There’s No Reason To Panic

Vector, a Russian laboratory that’s known for housing all kinds of Variola viruses had a gas-cylinder blast sparking a fire on Monday. The explosion started a fire on the fifth level of the building, resulting in a 30 square meters (320 square feet) area that burned. The State Research Center of Virology and Biotechnology is located approximately 20 kilometers (12 miles) from Novosibirsk.​

The research facility is one of the two places in the world that houses stocks of the Variola viruses, which cause smallpox. The other building allowed to keep the collection of viruses is the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta.

Russian lab that houses Variola virus samples took fire on Monday

The fire injured one person, who was sent to the hospital, but it wasn’t connected to scientific matters, according to independent Russian news agency Interfax. The explosion occurred in a sanitary and disinfection area that was being rehabilitated. The location of the fire was not in active use; therefore, no biohazardous elements were present.

All the reports regarding the event are consistent on all levels, and the local science town news agencies and the institute itself have reported the news. However, the English-speaking world is now panicking as the story has reached them. Why?

Headlines like ‘explosion occurs at the research facility,’ spreading a mistranslation that says all the glass in the facility was shattered, are the culprit. In reality, Interfax clearly stated in Russian that a couple of windows in the building were broken.

The news caused massive panic on social media networks

The confusion has created mass terror on Twitter, with people using the ‘bioweapons’ hashtag. In fact, Vector, which is one of the major research centers in the world, is a vast facility across several buildings, with more than 1,600 staff members who conduct several bioresearch programs that involve much more than just some smallpox jars.

The chances that the explosion allowed the plague back into the world is enormously small, let alone that if a jar of viruses broke in a fire, the microbes would burn. Anyone would know that, right?

Therefore, this event could not be as disastrous as the English-speaking world may lead you to believe. The biohazardous elements hosted in the building, which is the top-level secure facility in the world, were not even close to the area of the accident.

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