Plumbing the mysteries of Plum Island
"The facts are they were researching hundreds of thousands of hard and soft ticks," said Carroll. "And at the same time, an unknown bacteria has found its way into the mouth of the Connecticut River in Old Lyme, ten miles away, where tens of thousands of birds fly."
In fact, a person can only get Lyme disease when a black legged tick infected with a very distinct bacterium attaches to the body and passes it on.
Researchers insist that neither the black legged tick nor the Lyme disease bacterium were ever on Plum Island.
There is, however, no controversy about this: Plum Island is in serious need of improvements.
"Here is a research facility that was built 55 years ago and yeah, it needs upgrading, of course, to meet modern capabilities," said Grubman.
Rodriguez likened the facilities to an old building, "and as any old house as we all know, it take more resources to keep 'em up but it is safe and it's functional.
The Department of Homeland Security plans to move the operations off Plum Island, to Manhattan - not Manhattan, New York, but Manhattan, Kansas, in cattle country.
But it doesn't look like it will happen any time too soon.
"It'll probably be eight to ten years until it's functional, so we have to be able to maintain the capabilities that we have here," said Grubman.
The move to Kansas was cut from the federal budget this year, and opponents say if foot and mouth disease escapes the lab there, it could do the most damage the fastest. But that objection hasn't stopped the plan.
USDA scientists credit research on Plum Island for preventing famine by stopping outbreaks of animal disease in developing nations overseas, and keeping those diseases from coming here.
Researchers Marvin Grubman and Luis Rodriguez say they understand people like a good mystery, but they say what really goes on at Plum Island is a better story.
"We're one of the best-kept secrets for scientific research in animal health in the U.S.," said Rodriguez. "We're very well-known internationally. If you ask any veterinarian anywhere in the world, they all know about Plum Island. For a scientist, it's really hard to take sometimes that you know that people when they talk about Plum Island, the first thing they talks about a monster or something like that.
"I think our good science speaks for itself, and hopefully people will see that."
For more info:
- "Lab 257: The Disturbing Story of the Government's Secret Germ Laboratory" by Michael C. Carroll (William Morrow)
- Dressing down a culture for refusing to dress up
- The newest thing in architecture: Something old
- How design colors the mind
- Up next, recap and links
- Jennifer Lopez: A design for living
- Gardens in the sky
- The evolution of the psychoanalyst's office
- The benefits of multi-generational homes
- Work spaces: Past and present
- Mark Harmon, a hero on-screen and off
- Preview: Lopez on fashion line: "It has to be me"
- The bells are still ringing, for the last 1,000 years
- The psychology of design and color
- Former CBS News correspondent Jan Petersen dies at 63
- Buildings: What's new is old
- Charles Osgood