The Federation of American Scientists has a very interesting map for all the hypochondriacs and people living in permanent fear of a deadly virus epidemic. Or a zombie outbreak. These are all the (known) Biosafety Level 3 and 4 facilities in the world — high containment laboratories that work with “dangerous and emerging pathogens.” Zoom in the image to see if there’s any near you.
But what do level 3 and 4 exactly mean?
BSL-3, Biosafety Level 3
This is the second most dangerous type of pathogen research facility.
According to the FAS, Level 3 facilities are “applicable to clinical, diagnostic, teaching, and research or production facilities involving indigenous or exotic strains of agents which may cause serious or potentially lethal disease as a result of exposure by inhalation” like those associated with most biological warfare agents.
The scientists working in these facilities have to either manipulate these viruses or bacterias exclusively using “biological safety cabinets” or wear “protective clothing and equipment”.
These kind of laboratories should comply with special engineering and design requirements, including a “ducted exhaust air ventilation system [that] creates directional airflow that draws air from “clean” areas toward “contaminated” areas.”
The air from this ventilation system is discharged outside of the building after going through a “High Efficiency Particulate Air-filtered exhaust air”. This filter removes “99.97 per cent of all particles that are 0.3 micron or larger in size, which means that all microbial agents will be trapped in the filter.”
BSL-4, Biosafety Level 4
This is the most dangerous type of pathogen research facility, the kind of structures you see in movies like Outbreak. This level of safety is required to work with “dangerous and exotic agents which pose a high individual risk of life-threatening disease.”
These high containment laboratories have to in their own building or in an area completely isolated from the building that houses it. That means that “walls, floors, and ceilings of the facility are constructed to form a sealed internal shell which facilitates fumigation and is animal and insect proof.” These are the rest of 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.
Why so many safety measures, you ask? Simple answer. These are the typical tiny monsters that are usually manipulated in level 4 facilities:
• Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever
• Lassa fever
• Avian flu
• and tick-borne encephalitis virus complex (including Absettarov, Hanzalova, Hypr, Kumlinge, Kyasanur Forest disease, Omsk hemorrhagic fever, and Russian Spring-Summer encephalitis).
Research at level 4 facilities must be such a non-stressing job!
If you want to zoom in even more, the FAS has an interactive map here.