How secure are labs handling world's deadliest pathogens?

Posted by Kitara Julian On 10:39 AM
(Reuters) - To reach his office in Galveston National Laboratory, where scientists study deadly pathogens such as the Ebola and Marburg viruses, director James Le Duc swipes his key card at the building's single entrance, which is guarded 24/7 by Texas state police.

As he walks the hallways, more than 100 closed-circuit cameras watch him. Seven more locked doors stand between him and his destination. Entering a research lab requires another card swipe and, for labs housing especially dangerous microbes, a fingerprint scan.

To keep deadly viruses from escaping, each lab uses negative air flow and dedicated exhaust systems. Workers wear full-body air-supplied suits. To test its security, Galveston ran an exercise with the Federal Bureau of Investigation simulating a would-be intruder and another, with the University of Texas, war-gaming a campus shooter. The facility passed both tests.

Galveston's strict security underlines a little-known fact about hundreds of labs working with bacteria and viruses that could make the 1918-19 Spanish flu epidemic - when as many as 40 million people died - seem like a summer cold. Many of the precautions it takes are not required by law. Read More

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