- WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Responding
to an increased threat to humans from bioterrorism and animal disease,
President Clinton will seek $340 million to boost research on the diseases,
administration officials said on Tuesday.
- Some $40 million of the White House's planned request
for fiscal 2001 would pay for building a more sophisticated research facility
on Plum Island, New York, to study diseases in large animals that can easily
infect humans and for which there are no vaccines.
- The rest would be spent to upgrade the U.S. Agriculture
Department's 30-year-old research facility in Ames, Iowa. Currently, some
research in Ames, including studies of anthrax and madcow disease, is done
in rented space in strip malls, officials said.
- The proposal will appear in Clinton's budget request
for fiscal 2001 that begins on Oct. 1. The extra funds for animal disease
research would be spent over a seven-year period, officials said.
- Clinton is expected to unveil the 2001 budget formally
on Feb. 7.
- Agriculture Department officials said they needed to
upgrade their facilities to protect the $100 billion U.S. livestock industry
as well as to maintain a safe food supply.
- ``We're working against time,'' Craig Reed, administrator
of the USDA's Animal Plant Health Inspection Service, told congressional
- USDA officials said they currently could not study a
number of diseases, including the Nipah virus, which killed more than 100
people in Malaysia and devastated the country's $400 million pork industry
last year. Some 1 million pigs were killed to stop the spread of the virus.
- To study Nipah and other diseases that can infect humans,
the USDA needs a so-called level-four lab, where scientists wear outfits
resembling space suits that connect to overhead tubes with oxygen like
those seen in the 1995 movie ``Outbreak.'' There are no level-four labs
in the United States that can do research involving large animals.
- Nipah and other diseases pose an increasing threat to
U.S. producers and the food supply because of growing international trade,
and concentration in U.S. agribusiness -- trends that can speed the spread
of diseases, officials said.
- There is also growing evidence that foreign enemies are
capable of using germs to attack the U.S. food supply, according to some
- With most U.S. farm animals now raised in huge numbers,
any disease could spread rapidly and easily. That could cause not only
huge losses in human life but also severe economic losses in the U.S. farm
- Reed estimated an outbreak of hog cholera in Nebraska
would cost $2 billion in the first month alone. Hog cholera is a highly
contagious animal disease that does not infect people.
- Deadly animal diseases, including foot-and-mouth disease
and African swine fever, are studied on Plum Island, run by the USDA at
a cost of $14.5 million a year. About 180 workers, including 30 scientists,
take government ferries to work on the island each day.
- But work on the 840-acre (340-hectare) island, a mile
(1.6 km) off Long Island, has been controversial. New York and Connecticut
residents have kept a wary eye on Plum Island for the 45 years it has been
the site of animal testing.
- Residents became even more nervous after the West Nile
Virus, a disease usually found in Africa, killed seven people in the New
York City area and sickened 50 others last year. The virus spread from
birds to mosquitoes to humans.
- The Agriculture Department has sought to calm fears by
holding public hearings and tours for local government officials.