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Infectious disease

Bush Administration Considering Moving Dangerous Pathogen Island Laboratory Near Mainland Livestock

Sunday, November 09, 2008 by: David Gutierrez, staff writer
Tags: infectious disease, health news, Natural News


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(NaturalNews) The Bush administration is thinking about relocating a high-security pathogen research laboratory from its current remote island location to one of five sites on the U.S. mainland.

The National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility on Plum Island, N.Y., conducts research into foot-and-mouth disease, African swine fever, Japanese encephalitis, Rift Valley fever and the Hendra and Nipah viruses. All are diseases that affect primarily livestock, but most of them have been known to spread to humans in rare cases. Concerns have been raised that if the laboratory is moved from its current location, the risk in case of disease release due to accident or sabotage would be much greater.

In a recent 1,005-page study assessing the various proposed new sites, the Department of Homeland Security concluded that "should a large release [of foot-and-mouth disease] occur, there is considerable opportunity for the virus to cause infections and become established in the environment beyond the facility boundary."

If the facility were moved to proposed locations in either Manhattan, Kan. or San Antonio, Texas, the costs of such an outbreak to local livestock herds would be more than $4 billion, the report said. The cost would be less in the proposed locations of Athens, Ga., Flora, Miss., or Butner, N.C., but would still total more than $3.3 billion.

An earlier government simulation of a foot-and-mouth disease outbreak in Kansas involved National Guardsmen being ordered to attempt to contain the epidemic by shooting tens of millions of farm animals. The Guardsmen ran out of bullets, and people rioted in the streets.

The government estimated that in an outbreak like that in the simulation, a 25-mile long ditch would be needed to bury all the bodies.

The Bush administration has sought to move the laboratory due to the age of the current lab and the cost of getting to and from the island location. It is expected to decide on a new location by late fall.

Sources for this story include: www.washingtonpost.com.

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