Louisiana lab to test for bioterror agents

A south Louisiana lab is set to be the area's first laboratory that can test for anthrax, ricin and other bioterrorism agents since Hurricane Katrina.
A temporary lab in modular buildings in Metairie, La., is ready for final inspection by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Construction bids were opened last week for a permanent lab in Baton Rouge, La. State workers will use the temporary facility until the permanent lab opens, the Associated Press reports.
"One more review by the CDC and we'll be up and going," Stephen Martin, the director of the state's public health laboratories, said, according to the AP. "We're pretty much ready to go."
Martin said the lab in Baton Rouge should be ready by July 2013.
While a new lab to replace the cramped New Orleans building had been on the health department's wish list for years, it wasn't until federal grants to counter bioterrorism and chemical warfare solved the money problem after the 2001 anthrax attacks. After an $18 million building contract was signed, construction was to begin in New Orleans in late August 2005. After Katrina hit, the state office building housing the original lab closed down.
About a year ago, the office of public health acquired a modular building for its temporary lab. Independent engineers recently checked the security and air filtration systems along with the backup generators to make sure that safety features met requirements for such a laboratory.
"We're ready to have the CDC come in and check everything out," Martin said, according to the AP.
The lab area will be patrolled 24 hours a day. Any tests made at the facility will be in small amounts to be either destroyed or sent to federal authorities as soon as it is identified. Nothing will be stored or made there, Martin said.
"I think we've got enough safety and security measures in place that it's not going to be a problem," Martin said, the AP reports.