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  6. Plum Island Animal Disease Center

Plum Island Animal Disease Center

Location: Orient Point, NY

Protecting the nation's livestock. PIADCSince 1954, the DHS S&T Office of National Laboratories (ONL) Plum Island Animal Disease Center (PIADC) has served as the nation’s premier defense against accidental or intentional introduction of transboundary animal diseases (a.k.a. foreign animal diseases) including foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) and African Swine Fever (ASF). PIADC is the only laboratory in the nation that can work on live FMD virus (FMDV). The lab and its staff of nearly 400 employees provide a host of high-impact, indispensable preparedness and response capabilities, including vaccine R&D, diagnostics, training, and bioforensics among others.

With ONL’s stewardship, PIADC provides oversight, technical expertise, coordination, and facilitation for DHS S&T agricultural defense countermeasure programs with other agencies. PIADC provides a safe, secure, and compliant environment to execute mission-specific objectives.

DHS’s Transboundary Animal Disease Countermeasure Branch works in partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) at Plum Island to research and develop new vaccines and diagnostic tests to respond to and control transboundary animal disease outbreaks. DHS is responsible for operation of the laboratory.

The Foreign Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory (FADDL) operated by USDA APHIS is an internationally recognized facility devoted to diagnosing foreign animal diseases. FADDL maintains the North American Foot-and-Mouth-Disease Vaccine Bank at PIADC (personnel working in the vaccine bank are responsible for performing safety and potency testing of new antigen lots of FMD vaccine, and periodically testing the quality of stored antigen). FADDL also provides training to state, federal, and foreign officials in the clinical and laboratory diagnosis of foreign animal diseases through the FADD school.  

PIADC scientists, the facilities they use, and the work they conduct on FMD is essential to protecting our agricultural and food industries. FMD is a highly contagious viral infection of cloven-hoofed domestic and wildlife animals (i.e., cows, swine, deer, etc.). Markets for livestock, meat, milk, and other animal products contribute more than $1.5 trillion annually to the U.S. economy and represent one-sixth of our gross national product. The results of an FMD outbreak would have widespread economic consequences that negatively affect:

  • 22 million U.S. jobs
  • 2.2 million farms
  • 970,000 restaurant food service locations
  • 210,000 traditional food stores
  • 34,000 food and beverage manufacturing facilities
  • 1,800 slaughtering and processing facilities

ASF virus is a highly transmissible hemorrhagic disease resulting in up to 100% mortality in swine that has spread rapidly through Asia, parts of Europe, and Africa. ASF does not cause sickness in humans. While there are no reported cases in the United States, a domestic ASF outbreak would terminate the ability of the U.S. to export pork and could cost billions of dollars in disease outbreak control. In response to the increased threat of ASF worldwide, an interagency ASF Task Force was established at PIADC including DHS S&T, USDA APHIS and USDA ARS. 

The purpose of this task force is to increase collaboration and coordination, leveraging resources between the three agencies at PIADC, to address the threat of ASF. Its top priorities are:

  • fast-tracking vaccine development and production, 
  • improving diagnostic testing,
  • increasing national preparedness and response, and 
  • evaluating commercially available disinfectants to characterize their ability to kill the ASF virus to support outbreak response. 

For more information about the current state of available information on ASF, please consult the ASF Master Question List.

Plum Island Animal Disease Center Aerial ViewThe Plum Island Animal Disease Center operates Biosafety Level (BSL) 2, BSL-3 Enhanced, Animal Biosafety Level 3 (ABSL-3) and Biosafety Level 3 Agriculture (BSL-3Ag) laboratory and animal research facilities. PIADC utilizes well- established, contemporary biosafety and biosecurity practices and procedures to ensure the safety and security of personnel, the facility and materials including the animal disease-causing organisms under study. These measures help prevent laboratory-acquired infections, cross contamination within the facility and the release or escape of these organisms into the environment. The stringent and rigorously observed safety and security measures for the biocontainment facility include:

  • Restricted access to only authorized and trained employees and approved visitors.
  • Trained security professionals and various surveillance systems.
  • Biocontainment laboratory facility such as vivarium and effluent decontamination systems operating under strict biosafety and biosecurity requirements including meeting or exceeding those required by the federal select agent program.
  • A careful and comprehensive program of preventive maintenance performed on laboratory biosafety systems including the critical back up or redundant systems that provide an extra level of protection.
  • A well-trained and skilled operations and maintenance staff monitor laboratory air handling systems in real-time to help maintain biocontainment. The laboratory spaces on Plum Island are isolated from non-biocontainment areas using a system that draws fresh air in and filters the air before being exhausted from the facility. In addition, the inside of the biocontainment laboratory is kept at a lower air pressure than the ambient air outside. This helps ensure air inside the biocontainment laboratory does not leave the facility without first being adequately filtered.
  • Employees are required to take special precautions while working in a biocontainment laboratory to ensure they do not contaminate themselves or inadvertently carry disease-causing agents outside the laboratory. To accomplish this critical biosafety objective, PIADC utilizes a combination of specialized containment equipment, facility design, trained staff and established procedures and practices. For example, personnel are required to change clothes prior to entering the biocontainment laboratory and to remove laboratory-provided clothing and shower before leaving specific areas within the biocontainment facility, and again when leaving the biocontainment facility at the end of the work period.
  • Prior to gaining access to the biocontainment facility, all employees and visitors must agree to observe a Personal Recognizant Quarantine for a defined time period which precludes these individuals from having contact with animal species that are susceptible to the disease-causing organisms under study at the facility.
  • All biocontainment waste which leaves the facility must undergo biological decontamination process. These include chemical (liquid and gaseous) and physical (heat and incineration) methods.

  • Does not perform research on human or prion diseases. The primary diseases that PIADC conducts research on are not transmissible to humans. We do, however, encounter and work with some zoonotics across the diagnostic and training missions. Our staff is trained and certified in stringent biosecurity measures to handle these samples to assure a safe laboratory work environment.
  • Does not perform research on avian influenza.
  • Does not and has not performed research on Lyme disease. Discover more information on the history of Lyme disease.
  • Does not perform research on West Nile virus; however, the facility was asked to assist when an outbreak of West Nile virus affected horses on Long Island. PIADC researchers assisted in the collection of samples, as well as an initial development and testing of a West Nile virus vaccine for horses. Discover more about the history of West Nile through USDA and more about West Nile through the Centers for Disease Control.
  • PIADC researchers do not perform classified research. DHS and USDA scientists submit research for peer-reviewed publication in national and international scientific journals, as well as present their research at scientific conferences.

In 2012, PIADC scientists developed the first, licensed FMD vaccine that does not require live FMDV in the manufacturing process. This means that for the first time, these next-generation FMD vaccines can be safely manufactured on the U.S. mainland. PIADC’s groundbreaking innovation promotes enhanced biosecurity, efficiency, and rapid response capability. PIADC scientists also collaborate with animal health industry partners through Cooperative Research and Development Agreements to help support the transition of transboundary animal disease countermeasure product candidates.

Plum Island Animal Disease Center
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
P.O. Box 848
Greenport, N.Y. 11944

Last Updated: 09/05/2023
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