An advanced mobile bio-containment laboratory is now stationed in the Mexican state of Tabasco to provide bio-surveillance of disease outbreaks. The U.S.-built lab provides new early warning capabilities for remote regions and is the first unit of its kind in Latin America.
This lab represents a new generation of technology being utilized on the front lines of international public health surveillance. "Global collaboration is essential in strengthening the security of nations by preventing and reducing biological threat(s), both deliberate and naturally occurring," according to mobile labs expert Monica Heyl.
"In that Mexico and the U.S. share almost 2000 miles of border, we are deeply connected," says Heyl, who directed CBRNe/Mobile programs for the U.S. Army.
Many regions of Mexico are particularly vulnerable to diseases such as Dengue fever after torrential rains or flooding. Deploying a mobile unit directly into the affected area dramatically reduces the time needed to identify and contain a potential epidemic. "This mobile laboratory is a significant advancement for public health, providing early surveillance of potential outbreaks," says Olga Pina Gutierrez, Director of the Tabasco State Public Health Lab.
"This unit provides mobile epidemiological surveillance for our state public health labs, now allowing them to access difficult areas when there is a disaster or outbreak," according to Dr. Celia Alpuche Aranda, director of InDRE, Mexico's counterpart to the CDC. "This laboratory is the first in Mexico and Latin America that provides this level of biosafety and biosecurity in a mobile unit."
"The lab enables the community to quickly and effectively respond to large outbreaks of infectious disease in a manner that will greatly reduce their impact both locally and internationally," according to Dr. Steve Jones, director, Counter Bio-Terrorism Operations for Public Health Agency Canada during the 2010 Olympics. "The region has to contend annually with very severe weather conditions that exacerbate natural disease outbreaks making reliance on fixed laboratories unfeasible. This lab will put cutting-edge diagnostic capability directly into the outbreak zone and enhance the capabilities for critical decisions in a public health emergency."
The mobile unit was designed by Germfree, a U.S. manufacturer that has also provided bio-containment labs to remote regions in Asia and Africa. Germfree, in cooperation with the U.S. Army, has developed many new technologies that make these advanced mobile labs a viable option.
"Providing Mexico with this public health capability contributes to our global capacity in health, disease surveillance, early warning, response, recovery and mitigation by providing one more tool in protecting the health of our world," Heyl said.
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