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Could an accident have caused COVID-19? Why the Wuhan lab-leak theory shouldn't be dismissed

USA TODAY

March 2021

Clink. Clink. Clink.

On a warm summer evening in July 2014, a laboratory worker on the National Institutes of Health’s sprawling campus just north of Washington, D.C., exited Building 29A toting a cardboard box. Its contents rattled inside – an assortment of fragile glass vials labeled with faded typewriter script: Q fever, rickettsia and, worst of all, four strains of variola – the dreaded virus that causes smallpox.

Highly contagious, variola is one of the deadliest viruses the world has ever known. It could rip through most of the U.S. population and cause a global health disaster if released. It killed as many as 3 out of every 10 people infected before it was declared eradicated from the planet in 1980.

Clink. Clink.

Nobody has been routinely vaccinated against smallpox in decades, leaving most people in the United States and around the world vulnerable to infection. Yet after forgotten specimen vials dating to the 1940s and 1950s were discovered at the NIH in an unlocked cold storage room, nothing was done to ensure their safe transportation. They were allowed to bump around in a cardboard box with dozens of other old biological specimens as a lone laboratory worker walked them to another building about two blocks away, federal records show.

One vial had already shattered.

The world got lucky that day, as it often has when safety breaches occur at biological laboratories in the United States and around the world.

Read the full article at USA TODAY