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NEWS RELEASE
                             Public Information Division
                             Department of Customer Services
                             City & County of Honolulu
                             523-4385

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – December 18, 2001

            Mayor Jeremy Harris unveiled today (December 18) a new mobile laboratory that will enable the city to monitor and respond to terrorist biological attacks faster and better.

            The new Emergency Medical Services Mobile Environmental Laboratory was blessed by Kahu Mua David Kaupu in a ceremony at the Neal Blaisdell Center.

            “We already have one of the best response systems of any city in the country when it comes to biological or chemical attacks,” the Mayor noted.  “This mobile laboratory is an important component of our pro-active BioWIPP (Biological Weapon Illness Prevention Program).  We now have the assurance that this new city resource will be on-call 24/7 to exclusively meet the needs of the City and County of Honolulu.”

            “The Navy helps us immeasurably and has been gracious in helping us with sample testing in the past.  We are also very grateful for the assistance of the State Department of Health and will continue to work with the State laboratories for definitive testing. We believe that having a new laboratory of our own can only enhance the security and safety of our community.”           

The Emergency Services Department created the mobile lab by renovating a handivan that had been retired from service.

            The new laboratory will enable test results to be confirmed in the field, shortening the time of processing samples and allowing the city to assess the severity of an incident sooner.  A faster assessment translates into a more effective response to any biological weapon.

            The mobile laboratory performs extremely sensitive and specific tests on the DNA content of samples, using a molecular biology process called the Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) technique.  This technique is used in genetic research, medicine and forensics and is the same laboratory system used by the U.S. Naval environmental laboratory at Pearl Harbor.

            The mobile laboratory will be available 24 hours a day, and will enable the City and County of Honolulu to offer a prophylactic medical treatment for people exposed to a biological weapon within a few hours of detection, while waiting the 48 hours needed for the results of a “definitive” culture growth test from the State Department of Health Laboratory.

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Wednesday, February 27, 2002

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