UTMB: Virus missing from secured facility

Officials: CDC notified immediately after discovery

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GALVESTON, Texas - A virus disappeared from a secure facility at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, officials said.

Officials said they discovered the that the virus was missing during a routine internal inspection on March 20.

The missing vial contained less than a quarter teaspoon of a virus called Guanarito, which is native only to Venezuela and can cause hemorrhagic fever, officials said.

The vial was stored in a locked freezer within a secure laboratory. Officials said they've confirmed there was no breach in the facility's security, so they don't suspect foul play. UTMB officials said the vial was likely destroyed during the normal laboratory decontamination and cleaning process.

Kristen Hensley with UTMB said the virus can be transmitted by rodents only native to Venezuela where the virus is found. Hensley said they don't believe the virus to be capable of surviving naturally in rodents in the U.S.

Officials said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was notified immediately, and UTMB has began a rigorous process to assure the safety of its researchers, employees and the community.

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