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Trouble in the air at Fort Detrick

Latest biodefense facility adds risky element to already high-risk environment

February 28, 2011|By Kenneth King

The CDC also allowed USAMRIID researcher Peter Jahrling to conduct experiments trying to infect monkeys with smallpox. Currently, smallpox does not infect animals other than humans. That's why world health authorities were able (they thought) to eradicate the disease. Risking the establishment of an animal reservoir for smallpox makes about as much sense as resurrecting the 1918 flu.

The CDC's reputation for "safety" rests on its secrecy, and on the fact that it hasn't killed anyone in Atlanta since two janitors died of Rocky Mountain spotted fever in 1976. After 2001, however, both the CDC and NIH succumbed to biodefense mania — a fact that NIH-funded microbiologists complained about in 2005.

Unfortunately, all the government agencies involved with regulation — NIH, CDC, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Homeland Security — operate dangerous labs themselves and have a vested interest in concealing lapses and denying their significance. Don't look for them to keep us safe.

Kenneth King is the author of "Germs Gone Wild: How the Unchecked Development of Domestic Biodefense Threatens America." His e-mail is kennethelw@yahoo.com.

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