Almost three years after a series of anthrax attacks terrified New Yorkers, the city has opened a high security laboratory to detect bioterrorism threats.
The new $16 million laboratory is designed to deal with a broad range of bioterror threats as well as infectious diseases. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg says the laboratory is the city's latest defense against terrorist attack.
"I do not think that there is any doubt that New York remains a terrorist target and this new facility will help us deal with any attacks should they occur," he said. "It will also play an important role in the defense against infectious diseases."
In the past, New York had to use the federal Center for Disease Control in Atlanta, Georgia, to test pathogens and germs. Plans for a new high-tech lab, first made in 1992, languished for almost a decade. But the 2001 anthrax attacks and the city's inability to respond quickly and efficiently, led to the new laboratory which will employ more than 100 scientists and technicians.
City Health Commissioner Thomas Frieden says the 1,858 square meter facility puts New York at the forefront in the study and prevention of infectious diseases such as AIDS, tuberculosis and the West Nile virus.
"It is more space. It is better space. It is safer space for the people working there and for the people of New York City who will be protected by it," he added. "And it has the highest tech ventilation, security, training, equipment and safety measures."
Critics have raised concerns about dangerous germs leaking from the facility. But city officials say numerous safeguards are in place, including filtered air, sealed doors and negative air pressure. New York City routinely monitors air and water and has an elaborate diseases surveillance system.