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Real Biosecurity for the Heartland

Where is this research being done now?

Posted by nonbafks on August 11, 2008

Plum Island Animal Disease Research Center

Plum Island is a federally owned 840-acre island off the northeastern tip of Long Island, New York. Scientists working at the facility are responsible for protecting U.S. livestock against foreign animal diseases that could be accidentally or deliberately introduced into the United States. Plum Island’s research and diagnostic activities stem from its mission to protect U.S. animal industries and exports from accidental or deliberate introduction of foreign animal diseases.16 Plum Island’s scientists identify the pathogens that cause foreign animal diseases and work to develop vaccines to protect U.S. livestock.17 The primary research and diagnostic focus at Plum Island is foreign or exotic diseases that could affect livestock, including cattle, pigs, and sheep. In addition to FMD and classic swine fever, other types of livestock diseases that have been studied at Plum Island include African swine fever, rinderpest, and various pox viruses, such as sheep and goat pox.

Some of the pathogens maintained at Plum Island are highly contagious; therefore, research on these pathogens is conducted in a biocontainment area that has special safety features designed to contain them. If accidentally released, these pathogens could cause catastrophic economic losses in the agricultural sector. The biocontainment area includes 40 rooms for livestock and is the only place in the United States that is equipped to permit the study of certain contagious foreign animal diseases in large animals. USDA uses this biocontainment area for basic research, for diagnostic work, and for the clinical training of veterinarians in the recognition of foreign animal diseases. DHS now shares bench space with USDA in the biocontainment area for its applied research. The North American Foot-and-Mouth Disease Vaccine Bank is also located on Plum Island.18

USDA was responsible for Plum Island until June 1, 2003, when provisions of the Homeland Security Act of 2002 were implemented that transferred Plum Island, including all its assets and liabilities, to DHS.19 This action shifted overall responsibility for Plum Island to DHS, including all the costs associated with the facility’s maintenance, operations, and security. The Act specified that USDA would continue to have access to Plum Island to conduct diagnostic and research work on foreign animal diseases, and it authorized the President to transfer funds from USDA to DHS to operate Plum Island.20

Plum Island is now operated as part of a broader joint strategy developed by DHS and USDA to protect against the intentional or accidental introduction of foreign animal diseases. Under the direction of DHS’s Science and Technology Directorate, the strategy for protecting livestock also includes work at DHS’s National Center for Food Protection and Defense and at its National Center for Foreign Animal and Zoonotic Disease Defense, as well as at other centers within the DHS homeland security biodefense complex. These include the National Biodefense Analysis and Countermeasures Center and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. The strategy calls for building on the strengths of each agency’s assets to develop comprehensive preparedness and response capabilities.

Source: GAO –8-821T, Pg 9


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