Remember the anthrax scare a few years ago and all that talk about Saddam using chemical weapons on our soldiers when we went into Iraq. Well before that there wasn’t a big effort to study infectious diseases. At least not on a large scale. But those events and September eleventh made our nations leaders realize it was time to put money into research. And so Galveston was picked to house a national laboratory. Dr. Carol Heilman with the National Institutes of Health spoke at Tuesdays dedication ceremony.
“We have seen the rise of many naturally occurring infectious threats, including HIV, West Nile Virus, SARS and the threats of pandemic flu. The anthrax attacks of September and October 2001 coming in the wake of the terrible events of September 11, made it clear that microbial threats need not arise naturally, but can be the result of deliberate attack.”
The lab is one of only two built in the nation, but the other facility in Boston is in limbo and isn’t opening anytime soon. Scientist will be studying some of the most dangerous and deadly diseases …and people there are worried. Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson also talked about the importance of having such a lab.
“The fact that we are going to have a biosafety level four institution in our state that is the only one in our country that is going to open, is going to be very important for our national defense and for the security of our people.”
There is still so much scientists don’t know about these diseases. Senator Hutchinson says she’s seen the effects first-hand.
“One in seven that came back from Desert Storm have symptoms that are unexplainable. They were people that ran marathons that just deteriorated slowly after they came back. So, I believe in my heart there may be a chemical in the air that may have been passed for miles.”
Studying SARS or the Ebola Virus is a dangerous job, but as they someone has to do it. And it’s going to be done in Galveston.
Bill Stamps, KUHF Houston Public Radio News.