Explosion at Russian research lab that stores smallpox virus

A vial of dried smallpox vaccination

A vial of dried smallpox vaccination

The city's mayor also insisted that the incident does not pose any biological or any other threat to the local population, according to TASS.

One worker at Vector has been hospitalised after suffered three-degree burns from the blast.

An explosion blew out windows and caused a fire at a huge Russian medical research center, one of only two in the world that stores the killer smallpox virus.

The fire broke out when a gas cylinder exploded on the fifth floor of the six-story laboratory building in the city of Koltsovo.

The facility was set up in 1974 as a closed institute researching vaccines and "defences against bacteriological and biological weapons", Russian Interfax news agency reports.

Dr. Joseph Kam, Honorary Clinical Associate Professor at the Stanley Ho Centre for Emerging Infectious Diseases (CEID) told CNN that rules for storing viruses are very strict and highly risky diseases such as Ebola and smallpox would be stored in the highest "Level 4" laboratory.

The explosion led to a fire in an area of about 30 square meters (323 square feet), Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) and the state-run Tass news agency reported.

Doctors who attended to the victims were reportedly not told the patients were exposed to radioactive materials (with one being told he must have eaten "Fukushima crabs" in Thailand).

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Officials have opened a criminal investigation into lab authorities over the explosion, the Sib.fm news site reported.

The smallpox virus is shown here in this photo. The building structure, however, was unharmed, Vector said.

The city's mayor, Nikolai Krasnikov, said the laboratory was not functioning during fix work.

Described as "one of the world's most devastating diseases known to humanity", smallpox was declared eradicated by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 1980 following a worldwide immunization campaign.

The facility in Russian Federation, created in 1974, is one of two places that stores the variola virus, otherwise known as the deadly infectious smallpox disease.

Nikolai Krasnikov, head of the administration at Vector, told TASS in February: "Our scientists have wrapped up clinical trials of the Ebola vaccine this year".

Back in 2004, Ebola researcher Antonina Presnyakova died after sticking herself with a needle that carried the virus at Vector.

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