City of

Federal Legislative Agenda 2017

Laboratory Response Network Certification

Situation Assessment

Rapid laboratory detection along the United States/Mexico Border is paramount to homeland security. Early intervention, disease control, detection and prevention especially for health and bio-security make everyone safer. Currently, laboratory capacity is not adequate to detect all hazards, emerging, novel conditions and bioterrorism acts. Laredo, as the number one (1) inland port of entry and the third largest port for trade, commerce and international travel is a prime site for potential health and security threats. A biosafety laboratory level III (BSL III) exists in Laredo, but  we  need  a Laboratory  Response  Network  (LRN)  certification  by  the State of Texas to respond to current, new and emerging highly infectious and biological threats. This certification will also facilitate Food Emergency Response Network (FERN) approval to reduce the risk of foodborne threats.

 

Background

The United States/Mexico Border is a target, and we must ensure both homeland and health security for safety and protection against all hazards, highly infectious diseases and bioterrorism. We are an international border, and Laredo is the number one inland port of entry with 40% of all U.S. inland goods passing through Laredo’s four (4) international bridges; 16,000 trucks cross daily through the World Trade Bridge. With new trade agreements (Mexico, Central America, South America, China and Europe) increased air travel and air cargo, trade and population is expected to grow another 10-15%. Laredo serves as a HUB for other rural and smaller counties further increasing the City’s daily population by 100,000 and with our sister city of Nuevo Laredo, Mexico our MSA is over one million. These conditions promote daily health security and all hazardous threats by current, emerging and new diseases on the Texas/Mexico border. Some of these potential threats are new diseases; such as, Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome (MERs), H1N1, Ebola, and other highly infectious diseases. We also have the continued threat of Dengue and West Nile Virus, Botulism, Ricin, Multi Drug Resistant Tuberculosis and now Chikungunya Virus. Anyone of these could pose a serious health threat and/or serve as a bioterrorist attack.

 

Potential Solutions

We are already a certified and permitted Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) BSL III lab (have been for five (5) years). The State of Texas through the Department of State Health Services has not approved the City of Laredo BSL III as an LRN due to funding. We feel strongly that our international border is one of the most at risk ports of entry, and the BSL III would detect and confirm local, statewide and national threats. There is no better way to protect the state and nation’s homeland security than to have the best laboratory response capability and public health emergency response on the ground in the city that is now the third largest port of entry into the United States. Our BSL III plays a vital part in our public health emergency preparedness and response. The LRN benefits all of us.

 

Progress

Our 4,000 sq. ft. facility provides clinical, environmental and bio-safety lab III testing and detection. As an LRN, we can conduct additional biological testing for critical public health bio-threats and for foodborne disease prevention. The City of Laredo invested $2,050,000 for renovation and $120,000 for equipment; DSHS contributed $750,000 for renovation and

$300,000 for equipment but need for Texas to certify us a minimum of $300,000 per year for operations and personnel from federal agencies.

 

Target Agencies

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response,
     Office of the Secretary

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Texas Department of State Health Services

United States Food and Drug Administration
Department  of Agriculture (USDA)

United States Health and Human Services (Office of Global Affairs, Office of the Americas)
National Institute of Health (NIH)

 

Contact

Dr. Hector Gonzalez 
Health Department Director
2600 Cedar Street

Laredo, Texas 78040

Phone:  (956) 795-4900

Fax: (956) 726-2632

Email: hgonzalez@ci.laredo.tx.us