November 24, 2003 - Posted at 7:50 a.m. CDT
LITTLE ROCK, AR - The state Health Department is to soon start construction on a new $23 million laboratory.
The agency now operates with a lab built in the 1960s that is inside the department's administration building at its central Little Rock campus. The new lab will be built next door. By being in a separate building the lab will be safer.
With more space and modernized equipment, the new facility will be able to better address issues of bioterror and outbreaks such as SARS.
The lab is the testing center for the state on a wide variety of pathogens. Workers evaluate water quality, tests for tuberculosis, West Nile virus and other illnesses. All told, the facility runs 900,000 tests per year on about 500,000 different samples.
Construction will take about two years.