Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Virus Hunters: Inside Maryland's New Biosafety Level 4 Lab

Left: The air-lock entrance to the lab’s hot zone. Right: A biohazard suit protects Peter Jahrling, chief virus hunter at the Integrated Research Facility in Fort Detrick, Md.

From Popular Mechanics:

The swine flu has killed more than a hundred people in Mexico with reports of at least 40 infections in the United States. Could the flu cause a pandemic? Health researchers don't think so now, but the Center for Disease Control still suggests Americans take precautions by washing hands, covering coughs and staying home if taken ill. Behind closed doors, the NIH continues to study dangerous diseases of all varieties, preparing to stop the next outbreak before it begins. PM got an early inside look at American's newest infectious disease research laboratory, to see how scientists study the world's deadliest pathogens.

The integrated research facility at Fort Detrick, Md., doesn’t look menacing. The three-story glass-and-brick structure, which could fit seamlessly into any suburban office park, is typical of buildings designed by architects who read studies linking sunlight with worker productivity. The leather chairs in the atrium seem to encourage lounging. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which operates the IRF, plans to install a coffee bar in the atrium.

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