Kent State University becomes 2nd in U.S. to offer biosafety training

KENT, Ohio — The increasing number of high-containment laboratories and the constant threat from emerging diseases and bioterrorism require more extensive biosafety training of the highest caliber, and more facilities in which to offer this training, according to the Homeland Security Newswire.

Kent State University in Ohio has been selected as the second facility in the United States to provide continuing education to professionals in biocontainment laboratories.

University officials announced that the National Biosafety and Biocontainment Training Program will offer classes beginning in June 2010.

Kent State was chosen to be a training center by the Frontline Foundation in Atlanta. The nonprofit organization conducts the training for the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the Division of Occupational Health and Safety at the National Institutes of Health.

”This gives our training credibility,” said Chris Woolverton, a professor of environmental health and director of Kent State’s Center for Public Health Preparedness. ”We wouldn’t get the certification from them if we weren’t doing it the way they want it done.”

Kent State has offered training in laboratory safety and bioterrorism since 2005. A federal earmark provided $700,000 to build the 700-square-foot lab, and the U.S. Department of Education contributed another $750,000 to develop the curriculum. Since then, Kent State has trained about 75 ”laboratorians,” employees such as hospital employees who work in labs.

The ”cold” facility uses microscopic beads and powders to simulate potentially harmful microorganisms such as tuberculosis for which treatment or vaccines exist. In the more dangerous ”hot” Level 3 labs, the actual microorganisms are used.

”We go through all of the practice training the individuals need in a Level 3 lab,” Woolverton said. ”But to ensure the safety of the trainee, we only simulate the microorganisms.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention specifies the level of biocontainment precautions required in the four levels of increasingly restrictive labs nationwide. In the most restrictive Level 4 lab, animal technicians, researchers, research assistants, scientists and others handle potentially fatal microorganisms for which no vaccine or treatment is available.

Safety measures for Level 3 labs such as Kent State’s include double-door entries to restrict access, some protective clothing and rigorous decontamination procedures.

”Because of the increasing number of high-containment laboratories and the constant threat from emerging diseases and bioterrorism, there is a perpetual and desperate need for biosafety training of the highest caliber and the facilities in which to offer that training,” said Murray Cohen, president of the Frontline Foundation.

By expanding the training across the country, it will be more available to more laboratory workers.

For security reasons, the Ohio Department of Health does not provide details about the number of Level 3 or 4 labs in the state, spokesman Bret Atkins said.

Kansas State in Manhattan, Kan., was the first designated training facility for the biocontainment program last year.

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