Biological Research

Biological Research

Observations on DHS's Analyses Concerning Whether FMD Research Can Be Done as Safely on the Mainland as on Plum Island : Report to Congressional Committees

Website or Online Data - 2009
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Foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) is the most highly infectious animal disease known: nearly 100 percent of exposed animals become infected with it. Although the United States 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 laboratory on the U.S. mainland could have significant consequences for U.S. agriculture. The traditional approach to the disease, once infection is confirmed, is to depopulate infected and potentially infected livestock herds to eradicate the disease. 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 United States that studies the live FMD virus. The U.S. Department 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. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), as required by the Homeland Security Act of 2002. On January 19, 2006, DHS announced that to meet its obligations under HSPD-9, it would construct and operate a new facility, the National Bioand Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF), containing several biosafety level 3 (BSL-3) laboratories, BSL-3 agricultural (BSL-3-Ag) laboratories, and biosafety level 4 (BSL-4) laboratories. FMD research is to be performed in a BSL-3-Ag laboratory. We testified in May 2008 that (1) studies that DHS cited in support of its conclusion that FMD work can be done as safely on the mainland did not specifically examine a possible FMD virus release and (2) DHS had not conducted or commissioned studies to show that FMD virus work can be done safely on the mainland.

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