UTMB insists the public was never in danger
It sounds like the plot of the movie "Outbreak." But officials at UTMB in Galveston say the public was never in danger after a potentially dangerous virus went missing in a lab.
UTMB's Raul Reyes says Guanarito only affects Venezuelan rats that then infect people. He says there's no way it survived a lab cleaning.
"When these labs are cleaned and they're cleaned on a weekly basis everything's autoclaved -- that means it's sterilized -- and then it's incinerated."
Reyes says the vials containing viruses are kept frozen and wouldn't last long out of the freezer. He says it's likely the vial in question stuck to a worker's glove and was then cleaned.
Reyes says UTMB didn't have to report this, but did so only to keep its promise of transparency. He says other labs might not be so honest.
But terrorism expert Professor Jeff Addicott says the danger from infectious disease certainly is real.
"A flu in 1918 for example killed 500,000 in the United States and about 20-million to 50-million in the world."
Two recent federal government reports found the nation's labs are at increased risk for accidents involving bioterrorism agents.