In its ongoing efforts to stamp out all things terror-related, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has just released a giant report on its plans to build a mega bio-defense lab where scientists will study the Earth's deadliest diseases for humans and animals. Basically, it will be a real-life version of that lab you saw in the recent A&E revamp of The Andromeda Strain. Sounds awesome, right? The problem is that disease leaks from the lab are not entirely unlikely, according to the report.
According to UPI:
The department also assessed the possibility of a terrorist attack releasing pathogens from the lab — which will work on the most infectious animal diseases, like Foot and Mouth; and on those most deadly to humans, like the Hendra and Nipah viruses. The overall risk assessment for a release at the five mainland sites was "moderate" because of "the potential easy spread of a disease through livestock or wildlife" nearby, the statement said.
The new lab, to be built in 2010, will replace an existing bio-defense lab on Long Island. That lab, called the Plum Island Animal Disease Center, is outdated and no longer useful. DHS wants its researchers to study "zoonotic diseases" that hop from animals to people (can you say "bird flu"?), and to do that they need a facility at "bio-security level 4," the highest level. Plum Island only goes up to level 3. About ten percent of the new facility will be at level 4.
DHS is currently considering five possible sites in the mainland United States. They'd better hope nobody in those towns has read The Hot Zone or seen 28 Days Later.
New Report on Bio-War Lab Danger [UPI via Space War]