Texas Lab Loses Vial Containing Lethal Venezuelan Virus


AP  (AP)

A research facility in Texas is reporting it has lost a vial containing a deadly virus.

Officials said one of five vials containing a Venezuelan virus that can cause hemorrhagic fever has gone missing from a research facility in Galveston, but say there's no reason to believe there's a threat to the public.

The University of Texas Medical Branch said there was no breach in the security of its Galveston National Laboratory and no indication of wrongdoing. 

Officials suspect the missing vial containing the Guanarito virus was destroyed during the lab's cleaning process but the investigation continues.

"This is clearly an incident that is very discomforting and embarrassing to the University of Texas Medical Center," Dr. William Schaffner, chairman of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tenn, told ABC News.

"You can be sure there are a lot of sweating people down the chain at that institution."

The Guanarito virus is similar to ebola and can lead to bleeding under the skin, in internal organs or from body orifices like the mouth, eyes, or ears, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Medical Branch said the virus is transmitted only through contact with Venezuelan rats. It is not believed to be able to survive in U.S. rodents or to be transmitted person-to-person.

Based on reporting by The Associated Press.

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