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Global disease center ramps up

Staff is slated to begin working in a containment lab early next year


Capital Press

PULLMAN, Wash. -- The first phase of Washington State University's global animal disease center is nearly fully operational.

Staff is already working in the Paul G. Allen Center for Global Animal Health, which is on the university's campus in Pullman, Wash.

The center's scientists help fight global diseases through research, education and outreach.

Work at the center will dovetail with programs in countries like Kenya and Tanzania that identify animal and human diseases.

Without the proper diagnostic tools, fever diseases are often classified as malaria, said Terry McElwain, associate director of the center. Malaria is actually one of the less common diseases, compared to others that can be transmitted from animals to humans.

A level-3 biological containment laboratory is slated to be operational in January. The center is conducting final testing to ensure air systems and other facility operations are functioning.

Redundancies are built into the center for safety purposes, McElwain said, with monitoring set up to alert officials and local authorities who have already received training.

If an emergency occurs in one laboratory, the system is set up so potentially important work in other labs won't be interrupted.

The second phase of the center will include an updated facility for the Washington Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory. That lab oversees diagnosis and consultation on animal diseases to protect animal health and the food supply.

It is one of few labs in the United States authorized to test for bovine spongiform encephalitis, or mad cow disease, and provide early response in the event of a foot-and-mouth disease outbreak.

The university is requesting $5.3 million in state funding to design the facility for the 2013-15 capital budget, ideally looking to begin construction in the summer of 2015, said Bryan Skinner, dean of WSU's College of Veterinary Medicine.

McElwain and Skinner spoke to members of Greater Spokane Inc.'s AgriBusiness Council as part of a tour.




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