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Security Science

High Security Animal Disease Lab Faces Uncertain Future 105

Dupple writes in with a story about the uncertain future of a proposed bio lab in the heart of cattle country. "Plans to build one of the world's most secure laboratories in the heart of rural America have run into difficulties. The National Bio and Agro defense facility (NBAF) would be the first US lab able to research diseases like foot and mouth in large animals. But reviews have raised worries about virus escapes in the middle of cattle country. For over fifty years the United States has carried out research on dangerous animal diseases at Plum Island, just off the coast of New York. However after 9/11 the Department of Homeland Security raised concerns about the suitability of the location and its vulnerability to terrorist attack."
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High Security Animal Disease Lab Faces Uncertain Future

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  • by lunatick ( 32698 ) on Thursday November 15, 2012 @10:24PM (#41998217) Homepage

    I know people that work on plum island. They say that the place will be open till at least 2021. The decision to move it was purely political. At the time the local governments did not want a level 4 facility on the island, Once it was announced that the research would be moved to Kansas they recanted. There has also been much discussion about the wisdom of moving it to the middle of tornado alley and cattle country. Terrorism has had little effect on the decision, an island makes it very easy to control who comes and goes as compared to a facility reachable by foot. It would not surprise me to see them upgrade Plum island and cancel the project in Kansas, on the other hand it is up to the usual political backroom deals.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 15, 2012 @11:15PM (#41998483)

    What I'm concerned about is a bunch of militant "animal rights" nitwits getting in and "liberating" diseased animals, causing all kinds of hell.

    The University that I attended had a large agriculture department. They had a bunch of caged chickens. Healthy but caged. Activists freed them and the chickens soon started to die. Apparently living in cages with wire bottoms suspended a few feet off the ground did not prepare their immune systems for what waited on the ground below. They all got sick and most died.

  • Re:Safety First (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 15, 2012 @11:28PM (#41998563)

    You mean like the CDC in Atlanta?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 15, 2012 @11:45PM (#41998665)

    Yes, surely no one will ever become complacent after working there for a long time.

    Many biological safety and containment protocols are regularly disregarded at least in part because scientists think that their own lower assessment of the risk is more accurate than the "bureaucrats" who designed the protocols. Dealing with the lab moron(s) in BSL-2 is a pain. Dealing with them in BSL-4 is potentially deadly.

    Stupidity finds a way. That's why designs must be as foolproof as possible.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 16, 2012 @12:01AM (#41998721)
    I thought the first outbreak was in Queens, not right next to Plum Island. Considering West Nile Virus has virtually no symptoms in 80% of the people it infects, and was well spread in parts of Asian, Australia and western Europe by the 60s (not to mention Africa where it came from, where in the 50s it was found 90% of people tested in Egypt had West Nile Virus antibodies), it is kind of surprising it took another 30 years to get to the US.
  • by flonker ( 526111 ) on Friday November 16, 2012 @01:17AM (#41998993)

    I've heard that one of the more difficult aspects of working in a level 4 lab is learning not to catch things that are falling, such as scalpels, and that when the scientists go home after work, they don't catch tableware and glasses and such, leading to much domestic strife.

    (I don't know how true it is, but it seems to make sense.)

  • by ThatsNotPudding ( 1045640 ) on Friday November 16, 2012 @08:34AM (#42000275)
    This nearly literal pork-barrel facility (which is already built, BTW) is about a quarter mile up the street of the main campus of Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas. It is however, within eyesight of the a) football stadium, b) basketball coliseum, and c) student recreational center. Bonus: just to the west of all of that is the only hospital in the city. Not that animal diseases *ever* jump to humans...

    This was all mainly due to one of the worst US Senators in the modern age: Pat Roberts. His other claim to fame was putting off the investigations of the Iraq invasion lies until after the elections to 'take politics out of it'. After the election, he then claimed there was no point in investigating the lies as the past is the past, spilt milk, etc. Scumbag.

Nothing ever becomes real till it is experienced -- even a proverb is no proverb to you till your life has illustrated it. -- John Keats