Home Information Sharing & Analysis Prevention & Protection Preparedness & Response Research Commerce & Trade Travel Security Immigration
About the Department Open for Business Press Room
Current National Threat Level is elevated

The threat level in the airline sector is High or Orange. Read more.

Homeland Security 5 Year Anniversary 2003 - 2008, One Team, One Mission Securing the Homeland

Homeland Security Components

Plum Island Animal Disease Center

Plum Island Animal Disease Center laboratory

Since 1954, Plum Island Disease Center (PIADC) has been protecting America's livestock from foreign animal diseases (diseases not present in the United States) such as foot-and-mouth disease. 

PIADC's mission can be grouped into three main categories:

  • Diagnostics
  • Research and Development
  • Education

As a diagnostic facility, PIADC is capable of diagnosing foreign animal diseases in addition to domestic animal diseases that may look like a foreign animal disease.  PIADC runs between 22,000 and 35,000 diagnostic tests per year.

The facility's research programs include developing diagnostic tools and preventatives (such as vaccines and antivirals) for foot-and-mouth disease and other foreign diseases of livestock.

As an educational facility, PIADC has been instructing veterinarians in recognizing foreign animal diseases since 1971.

Foot-and-Mouth Disease and PIADC

Because Congressional law stipulates live foot-and-mouth disease virus cannot be studied on the mainland, PIADC is unique in that it is the only laboratory in the United States equipped with research facilities that permit the study of foot-and-mouth disease.

Foot-and-mouth disease is an extremely contagious disease of cloven-hoofed animals.  Accidental outbreaks of the disease have caused catastrophic livestock and economic losses in many countries throughout the world, most notably and most recently in the United Kingdom in 2001.  Though foot-and-mouth disease was eradicated from the U.S. in 1929, it is currently endemic to many parts of the world. 

A DHS Science and Technology Directorate Blue Ribbon Panel assigned highest priority to foot-and-mouth disease when considering high-consequence pathogens for study and development of necessary countermeasures because of its potential for severe economic and social impact as well as the devestation an outbreak could bring the United States.

The potential impact of an accidental or deliverate introduction of foot-and-mouth disease includes: production and export losses; cost of control through depopulation, disposal, vaccination, disinfection and surveillance; decreased consumption of feed products; allied industry losses (feed, equipment suppliers, veterinarians, etc.); and business interruption (tourism).

Homeland Security Presidential Directive [HSPD-9]

"The United States agriculture and food systems are vulnerable to disease, pest or poisonous agents that occur natually, and unintentionally introduced, or are intentionally delivered by acts of terrorism.  America's agriculture and food system is an extensive, open, interconnected, diverse and complex structure providing potential targets for terrorist attacks.  We should provide the best protection possible against a successful attack on the United States' agriculture and food system, which could have catastrophic health and economic effects."

PIADC Facility Information

Plum Island Animal Disease Center operates Biosafety Level 3 Agriculture (BSL-3Ag), BSL-2 laboratory facilities.  PIADC has state-of-the-art biosafety practices and procedures to prevent a disease organism from escaping into the environment, including stringent and rigorously observed safety measures within the laboratories themselves.  These safety measures include:

  • Restricted access to authorized employees and approved visitors.  Trained security professionals and surveillance systems guard the island, laboratory and storage areas 24/7.  All employees have pass security clearances.
  • The laboratory, animal care facility and laboratory sewage decontamination plant operate to enhanced BSL-3 standards.  A careful program of preventive maintenance is performed on the lab's biosafety systems, and redundant or back-up systems provide an extra level of protection to ensure against escape of livestock disease causing agents.
  • A skilled staff monitors laboratory air handling systems in real-time to maintain bocontainments.  The laboratory spaces on Plum Island are biologically isolated using a system that draws fresh air in and filters the air before being exhausted from the facility.  The inside of the laboratory is kept at a lower air pressure than the ambient air outside (negative air pressure).  This ensures air inside the building does not go out from the facility without first being filtered completely and thoroughly. 
  • Employees who work in the containment laboratory spaces take special precautions to ensure they do not inadvertently carry with them animal viruses outside the laboratory.  They must change clothes prior to entering the lab and change and shower many times throughout the work day when going betwen animal rooms.  They must also remove their laboratory work clothes and shower before leaving the laboratory facilities.  All employees and visitors of the laboratory facilities (not the administrative building) must agree to a Personal Recognizant Quarantine to preclude them for a defined time period from going to livestock holding areas on the mainland that contain cloven-hoofed animals.
  • Anything going into the laboratory must either stay there or go through an extensive biological decontamination process before being brought out.  Water and sewage wastes from the laboratory are thoroughly decontaminated before further waste water treatment, and trash is incinerated.

For more information about the lab, visit the PIADC Web site.

More about Plum Island Animal Disease Center >>


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

This page was last reviewed/modified on November 21, 2008.