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“Suspected” smallpox scab fragments, from the archives of the Virginia Historical Society

This image depicts a number of what were “suspected” smallpox scab fragments, from the archives of the Virginia Historical Society (VHS).

These fragments came to light when the Museum was in the process of putting together an exhibit entitled, “Bizarre Bits”, chronicling its collection dating back as far as 1831. These scabs came to the attention of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) officials, who retrieved the items from the VHS, bringing them back to the CDC’s Atlanta headquarters for testing. The tests determined that the scab did contain virus from the smallpox vaccine, but did not contain the smallpox disease virus, Variola major. The link below, will take you to the complete Wall Street Journal article, more completely detailing the course of investigative events. (http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704681904576319723384755958.html?mod=googlenews_wsj)

Credit: James Gathany, CDC

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