USAMRIID acclimates to higher security

In the decade since a series of anthrax-filled letters killed five people and infected 17 others, security at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick in Frederick, Maryland, has never been tighter.

Following the 2001 anthrax attacks, the federal government increased its efforts to help the public feel secure in the face of emerging threats, including biological warfare. Safety and security procedures at USAMRIID have also changed dramatically as a result, according to

"I think employees today want a safe, secure work environment - no more, no less than the employees did prior to all this," Lt. Col. Neal Woollen, the director of safety, security and biosurety, said, reports.

Since 2003, the U.S. Army has implemented a biosurety program aimed at standardizing how it deals with select agents - those that must be handled in biosafety level 3 or level 4 labs because of the danger they pose to the public.

The program dictates how facilities must handle, maintain and secure toxins, as well as how employees are held accountable. New, rigorous training methods are now utilized and significant medical and background checks are conducted.

"There's growing pains in adapting to new regulations," Dr. Garrard Olinger, a supervisory microbiologist and principal investigator at USAMRIID's 2000, said, reports. "We had to learn how to adapt to those regulations and at the same time participate in the formation of those regulations. It was a tough time. We've gotten to the point now where it's our practice. It's how we do things."