West Nile Virus has swept the nation from east to west, but it’s hitting some areas
harder than others. Lester Graham reports:
West Nile Virus has swept the nation from east to west, but it’s hitting some areas
harder than others. Lester Graham reports:
Nationwide this year, there have been 576 cases of West Nile Virus reported in humans this
year. The mosquito-borne disease has spread across the nation. Emily Zielinski-
Gutierrez, with the Centers for Disease Control, says some areas are worse than
others. There are West Nile Virus hotspots in the Dakotas and Nebraska, but it can
pop up anwhere… especially where there’s been a lot of rain or flooding:
“Basically, if you’re anywhere in the United States, you need to worry about a
mosquito bite that you get. If you’re in these states that have experienced and
communities that have experienced more intense activity, you need to be even that
much more concerned about protecting yourself from mosquito bites.”
She says look for the ingredient DEET in mosquito repellant. The CDC warns just
because you’ve not heard a lot about West Nile Virus in the news this year doesn’t mean it’s
not a problem in your area.
For the Environment Report, this is Lester Graham.
A mosquito taking a blood meal. Only a tiny fraction carry West Nile virus, but health officials say it's best to avoid being bitten. (Photo by Lester Graham)
At the Binder Park Zoo in Battle Creek, Michigan, Jenny Barnett says they protect their birds and horses with a vaccine for West Nile virus. So far there is no vaccine for humans. (Photo by Lester Graham)
With above normal rain in much of the country this spring… mosquitoes have been heavier in many areas. The quick warm up after a cool spring has also helped hatch out a lot of the pests. The GLRC’s Lester Graham reports you only have to step out your door to see the result:
With above normal rain in much of the country this spring mosquitoes have been heavier in many
areas. The quick warm up after a cool spring has also helped hatch out a lot of the pests. The
GLRC’s Lester Graham reports you only have to step out your door to see the result:
It’s not so much hot days, but the fact that the nights are warmer that’s helping the skeeter broods
hatch out in hordes. I’ve been painfully aware of the mosquitoes this year because I live right next
to a river in a year where there’s been plenty of rain to make little pools of stagnant water
everywhere. It’s a real nuisance.
(sound of mosquitoes)
“I’m in a very hot car and a lot of mosquitoes are trapped in here with me.
(pause) All these mosquitoes got here, just because I opened my hatchback and took
some groceries out, and they just swarmed in.”
(sound continues… smack!)
I don’t like ‘em much. Most people don’t have a very high tolerance for mosquitoes. They’ve
actually studied that. John Witter is a biologist with the University of Michigan who spends a lot of
time in the woods, studying bugs. He says there was a Michigan State University study that tracked
interaction of people and mosquitoes while camping.
“If you have more than about four mosquitoes landing on your body per minute, the people leave
the hiking trail. They go back to their campers because they just cannot handle that annoyance.
So, higher population numbers of mosquitoes, more bites, more annoyance.”
But not everyone, or everything, can get away from the pests. Jenny Barnett works at the Binder
Park Zoo in Battle Creek, Michigan. The zoo is in the middle of a forest. The mosquitoes love it
(sound of birds)
The zoo’s tried to use different kinds of fumigation in past years, but with sensitive animals and birds
like the ones we’re watching there was a lot of concern; and really it just didn’t work.
“With 430 acres and a lot of it being wetland, we didn’t even make a dent on it. So, after a couple
of years, we stopped doing anything.”
The mosquitoes weren’t always that bad, and guests at the zoo didn’t seem to mind that much. A
little mosquito repellant and everyone was good to go.
Then along came West Nile virus. Like a lot of zoos, Binder Park put its birds inside – not good for
the birds – not good for the people who wanted to see the birds. A couple of years after West Nile
was detected, a vaccine that was developed for horses and it was used on birds, too. Jenny Barnett says it
seems to work.
“So far we’ve had success with it and we are continuing to do testing on their blood to check for
West Nile virus and we’ve been successful so far, but we will continue to vaccinate. We’ll
vaccinate our horses, and we’ll always worry about it, but a lot of the birds do have immunities right
And it’s assumed a lot of people also have immunity to the West Nile virus. They probably have been
infected and didn’t even know it. People with immune deficiencies are at much greater risk, but
many healthy adults can contract it and dismiss it as a summer cold or bad allergies, but health
officials say do what you can to avoid being bitten. Now, they’re not saying that you shouldn’t go
outside. They’re just saying if you do go outside, you should use a mosquito repellant with DEET.
Natasha Davidson is with the Health Department in Ingham County Michigan. She says don’t
douse yourself in repellant. A light spray will do.
“And if you’re applying it to your face, you should really put it on your hands first and then apply it.
And even applying it to children, it’s better an adult put on their hands first and then apply it to a
Davidson says don’t use DEET on children six months of age and younger, and don’t put it on
toddler’s hands because they’ll just put them in their mouths. Ugh… not good to ingest DEET.
Some advise using a cream based repellant because it doesn’t go into the skin as easily, and stays
on the surface where it can do some good. It’s also a good idea to wear loose fitting clothes with
long sleeves and long pants. I know it’s hot, but it beats scratching mosquito bites for days on end.
Natasha Davidson says even on heavy mosquito years like this one you can help reduce your
exposure to the pest.
“Other things that people can do is to make sure they have no standing water in their yard,
whether it’s at home or at a vacation property. Empty your gutters. Make sure that they’re clean
so that the water flows through. Make sure that you don’t have flower pots that have standing
water in it, old tires, different things like that. If you have a bird bath, change the water in the bird
bath once a week.”
Beyond that there’s not much you can do. Mosquitoes aren’t going away and with a little
You might be seeing more mosquitoes this year. Conditions are right in many areas to see a bigger than normal crop of mosquitoes. The GLRC’s Lester Graham reports:
You might be seeing more mosquitoes this year. Conditions are right in many areas to see a
bigger than normal crop of mosquitoes. The GLRC’s Lester Graham reports:
The mosquito populations in a lot of places are high this year because of above normal rainfall.
Although you don’t hear as much about West Nile virus these days, it’s still a threat, especially
to those with compromised immune systems, particularly older people. Natasha Davidson is with
the Health Department in Ingham County, Michigan where there’s been a bumper crop of
mosquitoes lately. She says the best prevention is avoid getting bitten:
“Well, you want to make sure you’re wearing an insect repellant. And also when you’re outdoors
when mosquitoes are active been dusk and dawn, wear long sleeves; wear long pants; wear
socks. And apply the insect repellant to your clothing.”
So far there’s no West Nile vaccine for people. Researchers are working to come up with one.
They believe healthy people who’ve already contracted the virus and built up antibodies might be a
source for a successful vaccine in a couple of years or so.
There’s no shortage of veterinarians for small animals like cats and dogs. But there is a shortage of large animal veterinarians.
There’s also a shortage of vets who study diseases that could infect humans, such as mad cow or West Nile virus. Some vet schools hold open houses to teach the public about their profession, and to encourage kids’ interest in the field. The GLRC’s Melissa Ingells reports:
There’s no shortage of veterinarians for small animals like cats and
dogs. But there is a shortage of large animal veterinarians. There’s
also a shortage of vets who study diseases that could infect humans,
such as mad cow or West Nile virus. Some vet schools hold open houses
to teach the public about their profession, and to encourage kids’
interest in the field. The GLRC’s Melissa Ingells reports:
It seems like too much fun to be science education. Kids are getting
a chance to milk cows, pet ferrets, and listen to the heartbeats of
sheep. This event is a way for vet students to share their love of
veterinary medicine. Kids and parents crowd around the exhibits at
the Michigan State University Vet-A-Visit to see the critters. For
one of the animal stars, the crowds were just a little too much.
“My name is Sarah, and this is a Merlin falcon that is fairly used to
people being around and they’re used for education so crowds don’t
bother them for short periods of time, but they take breaks every now
and then. It gets a little agitated sometimes – it’s one of the more
Mostly, though, the animal participants show considerable patience
with being on display. Especially the cow, who is being milked by
lots of inexperienced hands.
Sam is a grade schooler, and he’s serious about learning how to do it
right. A vet student shows him how.
“I’ll show you. So you’re going to…make a…have your hand like
that…make a fist…squeeze…oh, good job! There you go! Yay! Whoa! Did
you see it come out? Yeah! Good job! Cool!”
While getting handled by amateur milkers all day might seem a little
intrusive, it’s not nearly as personal as people sticking their hands
into your stomach. Another nearby cow has a porthole in her ribcage.
Kids are actually putting their hands inside to feel the digestive
process. That’s what Erica just did, after putting on a very long
“What I just did, I put my hand in the um, cow’s like stomach and
everything and I felt hay and everything. It’s all slimy and
everything, it’s all warm too. It’s like all broken down. It’s kind
of funny and everything…and gross.”
While many of the Vet-a-Visit exhibits are live animals, there are
plenty of skulls and bones. One vet student is showing something that
most kids have never seen—a preserved stillborn lamb, cut down the
center to show the insides.
“My name is Daniella. So, this is our lamb here, and he’s been
preserved with silicone so that we can teach students and future
students from him, and that way they can see the actual anatomy
inside. So they can see the lungs, and they can see the stomach and
his intestines. Some of the kids are kind of grossed out, but most of
them are really interested and you can see their love of medicine just
growing, and it’s really cool to see their eyes light up and they come
over and they want to touch him and it’s a lot of fun.”
Judging from the laughter and carnival atmosphere, apparently kids are
having fun everywhere,. The vet students also seem to be having fun,
like the goat-keeper at the petting zoo.
“I’m Molly and I’m a first year vet student at Michigan State, and
this is a little Alpine goat. He’s a male, he’s about a year old, and
he’s been eating people’s sleeves all day long. It definitely reminds
you why you’re doing all this when you’re sitting in class all day
long, so it’s nice.”
Some of the kids are just here for the fun of it, and it’s hard to say
how many might actually end up as veterinarians. Some are apparently on the
right track, as we found out from one little girl, Grace, after she
visited some household pets.
“The cats… the little cats and the big cats and the doggies.”
“What were they doing?”
“The were um… they loved me.”
“You think you might want to be a vet someday?”
“I am. I listened to the heartbeat. I just listened in my ears.”
Of course, it might be a few years before Grace is licensed… but who
After a flight, the whooping cranes tuck their wings back into position, making sure each feather is in place. Photo courtesy of Operation Migration, Inc.
Some of the three dozen whooping cranes that winter in Florida have begun their spring migration to the Great Lakes region. More cranes are expected to fly north within the next few weeks. Wildlife officials put together that experimental migrating flock for the Eastern U.S., in case something happens to the only other migrating flock of whoopers, which winters in Texas and spends summers in western Canada. Scientists say there are several potential threats to the western birds. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Chuck Quirmbach reports from the Texas Gulf Coast:
Some of the three dozen whooping cranes that winter in Florida have begun their spring
migration to the Great Lakes region. More cranes are expected to fly north within the next few
weeks. Wildlife officials put together that experimental migrating flock for the Eastern U.S. in
case something happens to the only other migrating flock of whoopers, which winters in Texas
and spends summers in western Canada. Scientists say there are several potential threats to the
western birds. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Chuck Quirmbach reports from the Texas
The sight of a five foot tall adult whooping crane is awe-inspiring to many people. A Minnesota
man named Gary, who lives in Texas during the winter, says he loves to see the brilliantly white
whoopers and their amazing wing span.
“They’re pretty – huge and beautiful, pretty bird. Something we don’t have in Minnesota.”
The birds winter here at the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge. It’s a fifteen mile long by seven
mile wide peninsula north of the city of Corpus Christi. Aransas was the wintertime home for the
whoopers when the population of the endangered cranes dwindled to just 15 birds in the 1940s.
Today there are 194 whooping cranes in the Western flock.
“There’s a family out there.”
Crane Researcher Colleen Satyshur crouches down in a remote area of the refuge. she points at
“They’re just on the other side of the waterway that runs on the far side of the levy there. Two
parents on the outside and one baby in the middle”
The birds come to within about 100 yards.
It seems like a perfect place for the cranes. But because there is such a small number of birds, the
flock is at risk.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service whooping crane Coordinator Tom Stehn says 194 whoopers in one
site is just not that many.
“That’s just not much genetics in the population and there’s big threats to the population whenever
there’s concentrated in such low numbers.”
And a small gene pool is just the beginning of problems for the western flock of whoopers.
A few miles south of the Aransas refuge an earth mover loads dirt and rock into dump trucks.
Development along the Gulf of Mexico is taking up land. The human population here is expected
to double within forty years. Tom Stehn says that’ll increase demand for freshwater. He says
Texas is looking at diverting river water that currently flows into the Aransas refuge, where it
sustains crabs, a major food source for the whooping cranes.
“The crabs need the fresh water coming down the rivers, so if we dam up those rivers, prevent those inflows, the cranes
are gonna suffer.”
The refuge managers also worry about maritime accidents.
(sound of boat)
Boats like this one that travel the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway on the border of the Aransas refuge
sometimes carry toxic chemicals that could wipe out the birds with one spill.
Stehn says the list of potential risks to cranes is extensive – it includes things such as flying into
power lines along the cranes 2,400 mile migration route. He says there are new concerns, such as
global warming and West Nile virus.
Barring any disasters from those threats, Stehn says he’s pretty confident that generations of
whooping cranes will continue to winter in Texas for another 50 to 100 years. But Stehn says
even the crane’s longevity is in some ways a weakness.
“It’s a long lived bird with slow reproductive potential, so it’s gonna struggle to adjust if change
happens too rapidly.”
Stehn says the wildlife agencies can’t protect the birds from everything. But researchers can learn
more about the whooping cranes’ habits and hopefully that will help figure out the best ways
to aid the birds.
(sound of whooping cranes)
Help may come by tracking the cranes. This winter, Colleen
Satyshur recorded some of the birds’ calls. Some scientists believe
every crane has its own unique voiceprint that can be measured
through soundwaves run through a computer. Satyshur says they
think they might be able to use the voiceprinting as a way to
see which cranes are doing what.
“Which pairs are bringing down chicks, how many years, might tell us something new we can use to help us conserve the birds.”
Many people see the whoopers comeback as an inspiring symbol of wildlife preservation.
Keeping an eye on the birds is not just about the safety of the whooping cranes. Even with the
eastern flock becoming established and flying between Florida and the Great Lakes. Losing the
western flock of whooping cranes for any reason would be a blow to the entire wildlife
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, this is Chuck Quirmbach in Southeast Texas.
Crows are not the only birds affected by West Nile virus. Some Bald Eagles have come down with the virus as well. (Photo courtesy of the USFWS)
A wild bird sanctuary is using high-tech tracking devices to keep track of bald eagles recovering from West Nile virus. There’s no medicinal cure for the disease. But volunteers have nursed some bald eagles back to health. They’ve recently released a few of the birds and are watching to see if the disease affects their long term behavior. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Patty Murray has more:
A wild bird sanctuary is using high-tech tracking devices to keep track of
bald eagles recovering from West Nile Virus. There’s no medicinal cure for
the disease. But volunteers have nursed some bald eagles back to health. They’ve recently
released a few of the birds and are watching to see if the disease affects their long term behavior.
The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Patty Murray has more:
Marge Gibson is crunching through the snow on the grounds of the Raptor Education Group
Incorporated. Several big brown buildings stand stark against the gray Wisconsin winter. They
make up a hospital campus for injured or sick raptors.
Gibson approaches a screened in gazebo.
Inside is a very talkative young female bald eagle who’s hopping around on a perch and giving
Gibson a knowing look.
“She’s very vocal and she likes to chat…She’s doing her rendition of ‘poor me, get over here and
pay attention to me’ in bald eagle.”
West Nile Virus began showing up in birds here about two years ago. It’s not known if a bird can
ever fully be cured of it. But in January the sanctuary released three bald eagles that had
Gibson says it would have been irresponsible to let them go without first observing the lingering
effects of the disease. She’s studying West Nile Virus in eagles with the help of Nick Derene.
He’s a graduate student from the University of Wisconsin, Stevens Point.
Derene logs onto a special website and tracks down one recently released bald eagle that’s been
tagged with a satellite transmitter.
A topographical map shows the region where the bird has settled. A red “x” marks the spot
within 100 yards of where the bird is at that moment.
“And he’s found a nice place on a bluff alongside a stream outside of Black earth About 3 miles
off the highway that runs from Madison to Blackearth.
“Very nice secluded spot atop a hill.”
The satellite transmitters are more accurate than traditional radio monitoring. And they’re a lot
more expensive. Since the Raptor Education Group doesn’t get state or federal funding, Marge
Gibson foots most of the bills herself. The monitoring project could cost as much as 60-thousand
Just getting birds to the sanctuary is an involved process. Volunteers pick up birds they think
need help and drive them here. Then Nick Derene keeps an eye on the birds to see if they exhibit
any tell-tale signs of West Nile Virus.
“They’re usually convulsing, they have poor balance, head tremors. Usually
eye problems, sometimes they can’t fly-usually they can’t fly.”
West Nile Virus can also affect an eagle’s voice. That’s a problem because its mate might not
recognize its call.
When the sanctuary staff suspects a bald eagle has West Nile Virus they draw
a blood sample and send it to a local clinic for testing. Once the virus is confirmed, the only way
to treat it is with some tender loving care.
The birds are kept in cardboard boxes so they don’t expend energy flapping around. And they’re
fed baby food so they don’t waste energy in digestion. When the birds feel up to it they’re put in
an indoor flight room.
It looks like a warehouse-150 feet long and almost three stories high. It’s essentially a rehab ward
for birds who need to test their wings. An immature eagle flies overhead, but he hasn’t perfected
flight yet. He misses his perch, hits the wall and falls to the gravelly floor.
“Flapping, hits wall….is he okay?”
He’s okay but almost looks a little embarrassed.
On the floor of this flight room is a pile of fish, a deer carcass, and the ribcage of an animal that
became eagle chow.
Marge Gibson says she wants the eagles to stick to their wild diet. That’s why the satellite
monitoring program is so important because the birds’ behavior in the wild will indicate the
lasting effects of West Nile Virus.
“We can judge certain things in captivity, in a flight building. Whether the bird is flying well.
But one of the things we can’t judge is his visual acuity, his mental acuity and those things we
have to rely on once they’re released. And the satellite transmitter can follow them to see how
they’re reacting with their own species and other species once they’re in the
So far, West Nile Virus is fairly rare in wild bald eagles. In Wisconsin, more bald eagles die
from being hit by cars than they do from West Nile virus.
Nationwide the birds have made a remarkable recovery since being nearly wiped in the 1970’s by
the pesticide DDT. It’s now banned.
It doesn’t look as though West Nile virus will reverse that upward trend.
Marge Gibson hopes to keep tabs on just a few of the eagles infected by the virus to help shed
light on a still mysterious disease.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Patty Murray.
Almost 6300 Americans contracted the West Nile virus this year. And 133 of them died. Each season, health officials scramble to predict where the virus will strike before it affects humans. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Karen Kelly reports on a experimental approach being used in Canada that might make that information faster and easier to collect:
Almost 63 hundred Americans contracted the West Nile virus this year. And one
hundred 33 of
them died. Each season, health officials scramble to predict where the virus will
strike before it
affects humans. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Karen Kelly reports on a
approach being used in Canada that might make that information faster and easier to
(sound of chickens)
Stephen Burgess stands in front of a chicken coop. He holds an egg carton in one
slowly lifting the coop’s plywood cover. He carefully collects a dozen eggs that
have rolled into a
trough at the back of the cage.
From here, he’ll visit thirty more sites around Ottawa, Canada’s capital.
Collecting eggs from
small farmers as well as test flocks set up around the city. It’s a new form of a
warning system that’s used for the West Nile virus – the sentinel chicken flock.
But in this case,
it’s the eggs that are tested, not the chickens.
“Many states in the United States are using chickens but they are taking blood
samples from the
chickens every one to two weeks. The approach that we’re doing is we’re able to
West Nile virus by looking for specific proteins in the eggs.”
Burgess says this offers researchers some distinct advantages. Blood sampling
requires the use of
trained technicians – one to hold the bird while the other draws blood. This causes
stress to the
chicken. And it poses a danger to the humans who are handling the blood samples.
Two people have been infected with West Nile virus while collecting chicken blood.
says the nice thing about eggs is that they pose no risk to humans, and they’re easy
“If you want to go and look at a particular county, you can say, go out and collect
every egg from
every backyard flock this week and you can have a flash snapshot of what is the
the county and that was totally unfeasible using previous approaches.”
Burgess is leading a pilot project to test out this approach in the Ottawa region.
He’s a biochemist
by training and runs a company with Hugh Fackrell, a microbiologist at the
Windsor. The two had been working in the lab, trying identify antibodies in animal
spring, they stumbled upon a method that they say reveals the complete immune
profile of a
chicken by examining its egg.
For now, they’re keeping that method a secret – until it’s patented. But it was
enough to convince
Ontario’s Ministry of Health to fast track a pilot project for this fall.
Dave Jensen is a spokesman with the ministry.
“We’re interested in testing out this approach because it offers both a less
invasive way of getting
test results and a way of getting more of them than doing it the way we have been.”
The project has also attracted the attention of researchers at the U.S. Centers for
Jennifer Brown is a scientist at the CDC’s West Nile headquarters in Fort Collins,
“This is very new work and it’s very interesting. We’re really looking forward to
results of this pilot study, but I think it’s too early to say how useful it’s going
to be in future West
Nile surveillance efforts.”
For instance, Brown says it might require a redesign of the sentinel chicken cages
“If you had an egg that was positive for West Nile antibodies, you would want to
chicken it came from and you would want to know how many chickens in the flock were
eggs that contained West Nile antibody.”
At this point, the pilot project is not that specific. Researchers are looking for
evidence of West
Nile in each flock, rather than the individual birds.
But Stephen Burgess, the pilot project’s director, is taking the idea into account.
He plans to
deliver a final report on the project in December. He’ll consider what worked, and
improving. And he hopes to demonstrate that testing eggs can provide a safer, and
alternative for tracking the West Nile virus.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Karen Kelly.
Scientists are comparing the effects of West Nile virus to Polio, because they share similar symptoms. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Jenny Lawton has more:
Scientists are comparing the effects West Nile Virus to Polio because they share
symptoms. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Jenny Lawton has more:
Researchers say both the West Nile virus and Polio can live in the body for years
launching an attack against the nervous system. And there’s evidence both can lead
medical problems years after the initial illness.
In the case of polio, this delay is known as “PPS,” or “post polio syndrome.”
Science journalist, Janet Ginsburg, says those kinds of outbreaks begin with a range
“And a lot of people had a flu-like illness, just like West Nile fever. These
people today are
showing up with PPS. So you have this model of polio.”
Ginsberg says more research needs to be done before a connection is certain.
There have been fewer than a couple of dozen cases of the West Nile virus in the
States so far this year.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Jenny Lawton.
An artist's rendition of the Diagnostic Center for Population and Animal Health (image courtesy of DCPAH).
A new animal diagnostic laboratory being built in the Great Lakes region will help farmers and veterinarians get quicker answers about what’s making their animals sick. The lab will also be one of only a handful in the Midwest certified to work with potentially lethal biological agents and infectious diseases. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Erin Toner reports:
A new animal diagnostic laboratory being built in the Great Lakes region will help
farmers and veterinarians get quicker answers about what’s making their animals sick.
The lab will also be one of only a handful in the Midwest certified to work with
potentially lethal biological agents and infectious diseases. The Great Lakes Radio
Consortium’s Erin Toner reports:
Construction crews are putting the finishing touches on a huge cream-colored building
with green windows. It’s nestled among corn fields and campus dairy farms. When it
opens early next year, Michigan State University’s new animal diagnostic lab will test
thousands of animal samples every week. It’ll be one of the first lines of defense against
animal diseases that are spreading quickly through the Midwest. Testing for Chronic
Wasting Disease, West Nile Virus and Bovine Tuberculosis has already clogged many
labs in the region.
Right now, Michigan State’s ten animal diagnostic services are scattered in outdated labs
all across campus. Every day, the labs take in hundreds of samples from all over the
region. Some are entire animals – dead because of some disease or infection. Others are
just parts of animals – a liver or a piece of muscle.
These veterinary students are trying to find out why two pigs from two different farms
died. One had swollen joints and a high temperature. The other one was anorexic.
(ambient sound: “So have you taken your specimens already?”)
William Reed is the director of Michigan State’s Diagnostic Center for Population and
Animal Health. He says the current labs were built 30 years ago, and were never designed
to be used in the way they are now.
“For example, we need state of the art laboratories that have special air handling
capability. We have to be concerned about protecting the workers, we have to be
concerned about containment of the different pathogens that we work on. And it’s just not
proper to continue to run the kind of analyses in the kinds of facilities that we have.”
Besides dealing with various communicable diseases, the new laboratory will also help
the country build up its defense against bioterrorism. The lab will be one of only a few
facilities in the Midwest that’s classified Biosafety-Level 3. That means scientists are
certified to work with deadly biological pathogens and viruses, such as anthrax and
smallpox. Lab Director William Reed says it’s important there are more labs to handle
biological threats to animals and people.
“We will be able to address some of the agents of bioterrorism and it’s likely that we
would join forces with the federal government in addressing any introduction of a foreign
animal disease, whether intentionally or by accident. Particularly, some of the agents that
terrorists would want to use to harm animal agriculture in the U.S.”
University officials say the new Biosafety-3 lab would be safe and secure. People who
work in the high-containment area get special training and have to follow strict safety
There’s been strong opposition to similar bio-defense labs in other parts of the country.
So far, there’s been no sign of opposition to the Michigan State lab.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention won’t say exactly how many Biosafety-3
labs there are in the region because of security concerns. But there are reportedly two in
Ohio, and several others are being considered in the Midwest.
Randall Levings is the director of the National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames,
Iowa. He says the Michigan State University lab will help the federal government build a
bigger network of labs that can quickly deal with a serious outbreak.
“And the whole concept behind that is to have not only more laboratories that can work
with some of these agents, but the concept is also that it would be better to have a
laboratory with that kind of capacity close to the outbreak.”
Levings says another biosafety lab in the Great Lakes region makes sense. That’s because
of the large number of livestock farms, and the proximity to Canada, where there have
been recent outbreaks of animal and human diseases.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Erin Toner.
An artist's rendition of the Diagnostic Center for Population and Animal Health (image courtesy of DCPAH).
A new animal laboratory in the Great Lakes region will be certified to work with deadly biological agents and infectious diseases. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Erin Toner reports:
A new animal laboratory in the Great Lakes region will be certified to work with deadly
biological agents and infectious diseases. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Erin
When it opens early next year, the new animal lab at Michigan State University will be
certified as a Biosafety-Level 3 facility. That means it’ll be able to test for deadly
communicable diseases, such as Chronic Wasting Disease, and bioterrorism agents, such
Randall Levings is director of the National Veterinary Services Laboratory. He says the
new facility adds to a growing network of sophisticated labs able to deal with serious
“It could be crucial in terms of quickly defining what areas have it and which ones don’t
so that you can start putting your control measures in place to contain the outbreak and
limit its impact.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention won’t say how many other Biosafety-3
labs there are in the Midwest because of security concerns. However, two others are
reportedly in Ohio.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Erin Toner.