Does the World Health Organization (WHO) contain vials of all the diseases ever known to man? If so, where is it located? Or is that classified? Is it for the purposes of creating vaccinations if there were ever outbreaks again? Like if there was another rinderpest outbreak, yaws outbreak, or a cholera outbreak, etc?

Would it be similar to the Svalbard Global Seed Vault? Except instead of storing seeds (in case of natural disasters), it stores diseases? Or is this unethical and controversial because it means human error can accidentally or intentionally releases diseases out into the public again?

1 Answer 1


Apparently, from my research it's only the small-pox virus that is presently being stored.

But still, the find was disturbing because for decades after smallpox was declared eradicated in the 1980s, world health authorities believed the only samples left were safely stored in super-secure laboratories in Atlanta and in Russia.

There is a vaccine against smallpox that was a key tool in the eradication of the disease. This vaccine does not contain the variola virus which causes smallpox, but a closely related virus called vaccinia. When this vaccine is given to humans, it protects them against smallpox. However, it may have rare, but serious side effects, which in extreme cases can be fatal. Since smallpox was eradicated, the vaccine is not recommended in routine immunization. It is used to protect researchers who work on the variola virus that causes smallpox and other viruses in the same virus family (known as orthopox viruses). It could also be used to protect anyone else judged to have a high risk of exposure to smallpox.

Vaccination with the vaccinia virus as a protection against smallpox is not recommended for widespread use. No government gives or recommends the vaccine routinely since it can cause serious complications, and even death. It should be given only to those persons who have a high risk of coming into contact with the virus which causes smallpox, or who have been exposed.



  • Factually incorrect, as a number of diseases are stored. This is obvious if you think about it, as every year new flu vaccines are produced. Also, the vast majority of your answer is about vaccines, which are interesting, but not relevant to the question. Commented Dec 14, 2019 at 2:48

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.