Researchers at the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility proposed for Butner will study some of the world’s deadliest diseases and potential bioweapons. According to the Department of Homeland Security, which will manage NBAF, the following diseases will most likely be at the lab. However, the list may change based on national security threat and risk assessments.

Animal diseases

  • Classical swine fever: Last known U.S. case: 1978. Outbreaks have occurred in Europe and the Caribbean as recently as 1997. Infected pigs that survive must be destroyed. It’s a potential biological weapon.
  • African swine fever: Similar to classical swine fever. There have been no U.S. outbreaks, but one occurred in Portugal in 1998. Prevalent in sub-Saharan Africa, it’s a potential biological weapon.
  • Foot-and-mouth disease: Highly contagious disease affecting cattle, pigs, deer, sheep and goats. Last U.S. outbreak was in 1929; however, the virus escaped a biocontainment lab at Plum Island in 1978, infecting 200 cattle in a holding pen outside. They were destroyed and their carcasses burned.
  • Contagious bovine pleuropneumonia: Frequently fatal, it primarily affects cattle. It is endemic in Africa and has occurred in Asia and Europe. It was eradicated in the United States in 1892.

Zoonotic diseases (transmissible from animals to humans)

  • Nipah virus: Discovered in 1999 in Malaysia, it can be transmitted from pigs (and possibly dogs and cats) to humans. Flu-like symptoms can progress to brain inflammation and coma. About half of those people showing symptoms die.
  • Hendra virus: Similar to the Nipah virus, it can cause severe respiratory illness. Of the three documented human cases of Hendra virus, two people died.
  • Rift Valley fever: Found in Africa, it affects cattle, sheep, goats, camels and buffalo, as well as humans. There was also an outbreak in Saudi Arabia and Yemen in 2000. People can contract RVF through contact with infected animals and mosquitoes or other biting insects. About 1 percent of people infected with RVF die, although up to 10 percent experience some permanent vision loss.
  • Japanese encephalitis: Acute encephalitis, paralysis, seizures, coma and death. Between 30,000-50,000 cases are reported in Asia annually. Transmitted by infected mosquitoes.