After several months of investigation, local and federal authorities—including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—announced this week that they have detected infectious agents like coronavirus, HIV, and hepatitis in a Fresno warehouse.
The warehouse was reportedly home to lab mice, medical waste, and hazardous materials, according to NBC News, and the warehouse was referred to as an “unlicensed laboratory” in a statement by Fresno County Public Health Department assistant director Joe Prado. The warehouse was also home to medical devices developed onsite, like covid-19 and pregnancy tests, and hundreds of mice. The outlet reports that Fresno officials euthanized 773 mice, while 175 were already found dead.
“Certain rooms of the warehouse were found to contain several vessels of liquid and various apparatus,” the court documents said, as quoted by NBC News. “Fresno County Public Health staff also observed blood, tissue and other bodily fluid samples and serums; and thousands of vials of unlabeled fluids and suspected biological material.”
An inspection order from the health department dated April 21 lists the warehouse as being leased by Universal MediTech and Prestige Biotech, with the department trying to contact the business owners since December 2022. Court documents obtained by NBC News revealed that Fresno authorities began investigating the warehouse, located at 850 I Street in Reedley, California, on March 3 while all of the biological agents were destroyed by July 7.
“This is an unusual situation. I’ve been in government for 25 years. I’ve never seen anything like this,” said Nicole Sieba, Reedley City Manager, to Your Central Valley.
The health department’s inspection order says that city officials documented reports of inhumane treatment toward lab mice, which were apparently being used in covid-19 research. Likewise, Universal MediTech and Prestige Biotech were using and storing reagents on site that were imported from outside the U.S.—using these foreign chemicals requires a federal permit that the business owners didn’t have, according to the document. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and the California Department of Public Health, Food and Drug Branch were also involved in the investigation.