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New Class 'A' Disease Lab To Open In Raleigh

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RALEIGH, N.C. — A new bio-security lab is under construction in Raleigh and it is expected to become a key in the nation's homeland security.

Currently, the state's diagnostic laboratory in Raleigh is swamped with samples for West Nile virus testing, in both humans and animals. The new lab is expected to ease the load.

The state laboratory is turning away some suspected birds for testing of West Nile virus. Because they have already confirmed the virus is in all but 21 North Carolina counties and the lab is flooded with samples.

"We're in the process of constructing a bio-safety level three laboratory, which is an independent lab from the main laboratory," said veterinary microbiologist Dr. Gene Erickson.

The need for the lab became apparent when law enforcement officials were searching for laboratories capable of analyzing suspected anthrax cases. The existing lab in Raleigh was not secure for the task.

"We have been selected as part of the southern region of the United States laboratory network for homeland defense. What will be done as part of that role is monitoring for diseases of potential to bio-terrorists," said Erickson.

The lab is expected to open late this year and become part of the nation's anti-terrorist resources.