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PR- 192-04
July 13, 2004


Lab Has Capacity to Test for Full Range of Biological Agents

   Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) Commissioner Thomas R. Frieden, MD, MPH, Department of Design and Construction (DDC) Commissioner David J. Burney, AIA and Assistant Commissioner and Director of the Public Health Laboratory (PHL) Sara T. Beatrice, PhD. today opened the newly renovated bioterrorism detection facility at the City's Public Health Laboratory in Manhattan. The opening comes after a two-year, $16 million renovation and upgrade.

"For more than 100 years, the City Health Department has been at the forefront of public health," said Mayor Bloomberg.  "For decades, the City's Public Health Laboratory provided vaccines and antidotes for cities throughout the United States, helping keep the entire country safe from infectious diseases. Today, we face not only the continuing threats of natural epidemics, but also bioterrorist threats that would have been unthinkable years ago."

The new facility adds approximately 20,000 square feet of laboratory space, much of it upgraded to Bio-Safety Level 3 (BSL-3), which provides negative pressure and advanced HVAC systems.  Besides being able to test a broad range of pathogens, scientific staff has added to increase the labs capabilities.  In addition to being able to test for anthrax, DOHMH will also be able to quickly test for a full range of potential biological weapons of mass destruction.

Scientists at the Public Health Laboratory also analyze air samples from monitors placed throughout the City.   It also performs regular testing of water from the City's public and private beaches.  In all, the PHL performs close to two million tests on over 400,000 samples annually, including specimens submitted by the New York City Police Department and the City's Health and Hospitals Corporation.

 "In addition to essential lab testing, the Health Department's syndromic surveillance system monitors 60,000 health events every day, including emergency department visits and ambulance runs for any signs of a public health threat, from foodborne illness, to asthma and allergy season to a potential terrorist attack," said Commissioner Frieden. "This laboratory is a cornerstone of the public health infrastructure. The renovation of the labs is not only important for bioterrorism preparedness. Labs are also critical for other emerging health issues including West Nile virus and SARS, as well as for ongoing threats such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, sexually transmitted diseases, and environmental health concerns."

"To better serve New York on a variety of health issues, New York City needs new, state-of-the-art medical laboratory facilities," said Commissioner Burney. "This was a priority project and DDC is happy to support the Health Department in its mission by providing this high-technology facility for the City's health professionals."

The $16 million lab renovation was funded entirely through the City's capital budget.  Additional operating support was provided through a federal bioterrorism readiness and response grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).   CDC funding strengthened staffing levels, improved equipment and increased the capacity to test a large number of specimens.


Ed Skyler / Jordan Barowitz   (212) 788-2958

Sandra Mullin   (DOHMH)
(212) 788-5290

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