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Release: Oct. 22, 2001

Gilchrist to testify before U.S. Senate subcommittee Oct. 23

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Mary Gilchrist, Ph.D., director of the University of Iowa Hygienic Laboratory, will testify before the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Tuesday, Oct. 23, in Washington, D.C.

Gilchrist will participate in a special hearing of the subcommittee on the topic, "Assessing the Public Health Response to the Recent Anthrax Exposures." The hearing is scheduled for 10 a.m. Oct. 23 in the Dirksen Senate Office Building. Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin is chairman of the subcommittee.

Gilchrist, who also is the current president of the Association of Public Health Laboratories, helped develop a national laboratory bioterrorism network, established two years ago by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The network links hospitals, federal agencies and public health laboratories around the United States in detecting, tracking and controlling potential bioterrorism outbreaks. The UI Hygienic Laboratory is one of 81 sites designated to conduct tests on suspected biological agents submitted by hospitals and other state laboratories.

Last week, Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack ordered extra security measures at the Hygienic Laboratory to safeguard small quantities of the non-virulent vaccine strain of the bacteria that cause anthrax. The anthrax organisms at the Hygienic Laboratory are secure and present no health risks.

The Hygienic Laboratory is the state's environmental and public health laboratory, and it provides diagnostic testing and services for communicable disease control in the areas of microbiology, immunology, virology and molecular biology. It also conducts analytic and detection services related to air and water quality, and provides laboratory support to state agencies and other clients.