Sunday, October 28, 2007

Got Virus?

You know what is odd about Madison? Maybe that’s too general a question. You know what I think is ironic about Madison? If you want to build another conventional power line the environmentalists will fight you every step of the way. If you want to build ANOTHER Biosafety Level 3 containment facility for work on extremely lethal biohazards in the middle on the city, no one so much as picks of a picket sign.

Flu lab set to open: UW-Madison’s $12.5 million Institute for Influenza Viral Research, nearing completion at University Research Park, will have a collection of safety and security features the university hasn’t seen before.

The institute contains lab space classified as Biosafety Level 3-Agriculture, a standard higher than any other lab at the university. BSL3-Ag is near the top of the federal government’s four-level scale for labs involving infectious agents.

Only a few BSL-4 labs, in which workers don space suits with self-contained breathing devices, exist nationwide. Several labs at UW-Madison, including some of Kawaoka’s lab space in the veterinary school, are BSL-3. In those labs, researchers wear gloves and masks and work under cabinets, and the air is specially filtered.

The BSL-3 Ag designation carries additional requirements, such as extra air handling systems, showers upon leaving the lab -- and in the case of bird flu research, no contact with birds for several days.

I suppose it’s all about what’s on the agenda. Stopping coal fired power plants miles way is a top priority public safety issue, but storage of Ebola and Avian Bird Flu virus in the middle of town - no big deal. After all, Herpes and AIDS are everywhere and no one cares the least little bit. Believe me, if it was Wal-Mart going into this property there would be outraged citizen meetings raising hell about how the development hurts neighborhood property values, but since it’s only lethal germ storage - not a peep.