New Facility to Detect and Respond to Outbreaks of Infectious Disease

Regional Laboratory Will Boost Global Public Health

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad and Tobago, May 21, 2014 / PRNewswire — A new biological containment laboratory has been officially handed over by the Government of Canada to the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA). The Biosafety Level 3 facility is the first of its kind for the Caribbean region. Manufactured by Germfree, the facility was provided by Canada to CARPHA in cooperation with the Pan-American Health Organization/World Health Organization (WHO).  The laboratory will strengthen capacity for fast detection, diagnosis and response to infectious disease outbreaks, whether naturally occurring or deliberately caused.

“In our modern age where global travel is routine and disease knows no boundaries a well-equipped safe and secure biological laboratory is an essential tool in the fight against infectious disease,” said His Excellency Mr. Gerard Latulippe, High Commissioner for Canada to Trinidad & Tobago, at the recent laboratory handover event. “As underscored by ongoing outbreaks of diseases such as the Chikungunya here in the Caribbean, as well as Ebola in West Africa, and the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) in the Middle East, isolated disease threats can very quickly become regional or global menaces, presenting serious threats to the health, safety and security of the people of the world.”

The new facility will be a critical global public health asset, providing advanced disease surveillance. “This first class lab will enable us to be even better prepared for any emergencies that can be caused by pathogenic agents through early detection and enhanced response capabilities,” said Dr. Fuad Khan, Minister of Health, Trinidad and Tobago.  According to Mr. Latulippe “It is set up to process and rapidly identify, in a safe and secure environment, samples suspected for a diverse range of diseases – including Yellow fever, West Nile virus, Rabies, Hantavirus, Anthrax, drug resistant MTB and emerging infectious diseases with epidemic potential.”

The project presented rigorous requirements for regional sustainability. “We had to rethink how a BSL-3 laboratory is built. For example, we worked with Canada’s biocontainment engineers to greatly reduce energy consumption,” said Jeff Serle, General Manager of Germfree, the Florida-based biocontainment company.

Regional biocontainment laboratories play a critical international role. According to Dr. C. James Hospedales, Executive Director of CARPHA, “This is a strategic public health resource for the Americas and for the world.”

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