International and U.S. scientists will convene in Atlanta June 24-29 to undergo training in Emory University's mock Biosafety Level 4 (BSL4) training laboratory.
BSL4 laboratories house some of the world's most dangerous disease-causing agents and pathogens including Ebola, smallpox, anthrax and avian influenza. Emory's biosafety training lab is one of only two training labs around the globe designed to teach researchers and others who work in BSL3 and BSL4 high-containment laboratories how to contain dangerous pathogens and protect themselves and the community in the event of a bioterrorist attack or disease outbreak.
The one-week program provides hands-on training in a real-life setting, allowing participants to demonstrate safe practices in a mock high-containment laboratory where no pathogens are present. These exercises include routine donning and doffing of personal protective equipment (the "suit"). Participants also practice emergency procedures. The training's goal is to further minimize any risk of exposure to a pathogen through hands-on demonstration by participants of safe practices.
"Laboratory research on dangerous pathogens has increased rapidly following the U.S. anthrax attacks in 2001, the SARS epidemic of 2003, and the growing recognition of the threat of pandemic and avian flu," says Sean Kaufman, MPH, CHES, director of programs in Emory's Rollins School of Public Health's Center for Public Health Preparedness and Research (CPHPR).
"With the expansion of biodefense funding, construction of Biosafety Level 3 and Level 4 laboratories, an increase in animal research facilities, and an increase in the number of people needed to work in these facilities, there is a great need for biosafety training that offers an environment which allows for learning to take place with minimal risk to the health and safety of those learning," Kaufman adds.
Members of the media can observe laboratory training activities and simulation drills during the upcoming biosafety training session at Emory. Training participants will don protective space suits as they undergo mock disaster drills, practice safety procedures, and receive direct feedback on what they did well and areas for improvement.
The Emory mock laboratory and training is part of the Southeastern Regional Center for Excellence in Biodefense and Emerging Infections (SERCEB) supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Ruth Berkelman, MD, Emory public health professor of epidemiology and director of the CPHPR, directs the NIH grant for biosafety training. For more information about the BSL4 training lab or to participate as a media observer, call 404-727-5692.