HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - On the hunt for a suitcase of smallpox!
If you watched Monday night's crossover episode of Hawaii Five-0 and NCIS: Los Angeles, our islands were ground zero for a potential biological outbreak. Of course, that's Hollywood, but could something like that really happen here?
As our Five-0 crimefighters are cracking the case, we've got some scientists that could probably craft something even better than a Hollywood ending.
Tucked away in a secure location in Pearl City, microbiologists at the Department of Health's State Laboratory Facility monitor a wide variety of public health risks.
"The Hawaii state laboratory is prepared to deal with any kind of biological emergency," says state laboratories administrator, Chris Whelen.
The lab tests for things like influenza, West Nile, dengue, noro-virus, and STDs. A smallpox outbreak would be a longshot - since the virus was eradicated in the 1970's. Only a couple of small stocks exist, and they're under lock-and-key. But, say a letter or hoax surfaces here - threatening some kind of mass contamination. Authorities, like the FBI, would contact the lab.
"I figure that we'll be able to provide the necessary response or testing that we need to do, maybe 2-3 weeks, four weeks tops," says Rebecca Scuilli of the laboratory emergency response program. "That's the beauty about being part of a response network. We should be able to ask other public laboratories to help us with the testing."
Indeed, the Hawaii state lab is closely tied to the Centers for Disease Control and the Food Emergency Response Network. Scientists here often check for food-related dangers like e-coli and salmonella, and monitor air and water quality.
They were also put on alert during last November's APEC summit. Whelen says, "There was a lot of biological monitoring that occurred in support of that particular event. The Hawaii state laboratory was very active, 24/7, during that time."
So, these microbiologists may not carry a gun and a badge, but consider them crimestoppers in the lab.
(By the way, a Hawaii Five-0 crew actually came to the lab, took pictures, then re-created it on-set. Exciting day for the scientists!)