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Biological Research: Observations on DHS’s Analyses Concerning Whether FMD Research Can be Done as Safely on the Mainland as on Plum Island
Nancy Kingsbury (au)
Foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) is the most highly infectious animal disease known: nearly 100% of exposed animals become infected with it. Although the U.S. has not had an outbreak of FMD since 1929, a single outbreak of FMD virus as a result of an accidental or intentional release from a lab on the U.S. mainland could have significant consequences for U.S. agriculture. The Plum Island Animal Disease Center (PIADC), on a federally owned island off the northern tip of Long Island, New York, is the only facility in the U.S. that studies the live FMD virus. The U.S. Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) was responsible for the PIADC from its opening in the 1950s until June 2003, when USDA transferred responsibility for it to the U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security (DHS), as required by the Homeland Security Act of 2002. On Jan. 19, 2006, DHS announced that to meet its obligations under HSPD-9, it would construct and operate a new facility -- the Nat. Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF) -- containing several biosafety level 3 (BSL-3) labs, BSL-3 agricultural (BSL-3-Ag) labs, and biosafety level 4 (BSL-4) labs. FMD research is to be performed in a BSL-3-Ag lab. When fully operational, the NBAF is meant to replace the PIADC. The act restricted DHS's obligation of funds for constructing the NBAF on the mainland until DHS completed a risk assessment on whether FMD work can be done safely on the U.S. mainland and this report reviewed DHS's risk assessment. It specifically assessed the evidence DHS used to conclude that work with FMD can be conducted as safely on the U.S. mainland as on Plum Island, New York. Figures and tables.
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