Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Bioterrorism Lab Ready for Higher Designation

Pittsburgh’s bioterrorism lab is on the cusp of being able to test exotic and deadly pathogens like H1N1, anthrax, and smallpox.

The Bio-Safety Level 3 designation was originally slated for August, but the Lawrenceville facility’s ventilation system and air pressure did not meet safety requirements.

Allegheny County spokesperson Megan Dardanell says after fixing those problems in November, the county now only awaits a signature of approval for the $6.4 million lab.

She says once authorized, the lab will allow for quicker testing of public health threats in Western Pennsylvania.

“When the H1N1 first came out last spring, we were having to send samples across the state to get results,” says Dardanell. “With the new lab, we’ll be able to test those samples right here in Pittsburgh and have results almost immediately.”

The facility has been staffed since August, but Dardanell says workers are not currently permitted to test pathogens like the swine flu for fear that they might escape into the atmosphere.

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