Did you know that there are four-five high containment biological facilities in our region? The Federation of American Scientists have a map of these labs, and they are high containment laboratories that work with "dangerous and emerging pathogens." Sound scary enough for you?
As it is, we are close to four of them, (correct me if I'm wrong) in Malaysia. National Public Health Laboratory (NPHL), Ministry of Health - BSL Level 3, Institute of Medical Research - BSL Level 3, Veterinary Research Institute - BSL Level 3 and the last one being in Singapore: Defense Science Organization - BSL Level 4
What do the BSL levels mean?
BSL-3, Biosafety Level 3
Level 3 is the second most dangerous type of pathogen research facility. The FAS says that level 3 facilities are "applicable to clinical, diagnostic, teaching and research or production facilities that involve indigenous or exotic strains of agents which may not cause serious or potentially lethal disease as a result of exposure by inhalation".
Scientists who are working in these facilities have to manipulate these viruses or bacterias using "biological safety cabinets" or wear "protective clothing and equipment."
The fun doesn't stop there. These laboratories of these BSL levels need to comply with special engineering and design requirements. For example, a "ducted exhaust air ventilation system that creates directional airflow that draws air from "clean" areas toward "contaminated" areas."
BSL-4, Biosafety Level 4
If Level 3 was the second most dangerous, Level 4 would make it bad ass. It's the most dangerous type of pathogen research facility and it's exactly the kind of structures you see in movies that involve diseases and contagions. The level of safety to work here is very high because scientists will be working with "dangerous and exotic agents which pose a high individual risk of life-threatening disease."
The containment laboratories have to be in their own building, or an area that is completely isolated from the building that houses it. Which means, walls, floors and ceilings of the facility are constructed to form a sealed off internal shell which allows for fumigation and is animal and insect proof. And because it's more dangerous than any level 3, these are the requirements:
• A dedicated non-recirculating ventilation system is provided. The supply and exhaust components of the system are balanced to assure directional airflow from the area of least hazard to the area(s) of greatest potential hazard.
• Within work areas of the facility, all activities are confined to Class III biological safety cabinets, or Class II biological safety cabinets used with one-piece positive pressure personnel suits ventilated by a life support system.
• The Biosafety Level 4 laboratory has special engineering and design features to prevent microorganisms from being disseminated into the environment.
• Personnel enter and leave the facility only through the clothing change and shower rooms, and shower each time they leave the facility.
• Personal clothing is removed in the outer clothing change room and kept there.
• A specially designed suit area may be provided in the facility to provide personnel protection equivalent to that provided by Class III cabinets.
• The exhaust air from the suit area is filtered by two sets of HEPA filters installed in series.
• Supplies and materials needed in the facility are brought in by way of double-doored autoclave, fumigation chamber, or airlock, which is appropriately decontaminated between each use.
You don't want any of these suckers coming out. Or anything going in and coming out. These are the typical tiny monsters manipulated in level 4 facilities: