Herpes, HIV, rabies and influenza are a few of the diseases scientists at a laboratory in Fairbanks pin down by examining tens of thousands of specimens each year.

The work of the Alaska State Public Health Virology Laboratory helps the state track the spread of diseases, including the H1N1 influenza virus, also known as swine flu.

This year, the laboratory received new digs and new equipment. The $32 million facility has been in use for months but is being formally dedicated today.

It’s the most modern laboratory in Alaska, lab manager Terry Schmidt said.

And the timing of the new building couldn’t be better. The World Health Organization last week declared H1N1 influenza the first global epidemic in 41 years.

The building is on the University of Alaska Fairbanks campus behind the Museum of the North. At 29,000 square feet, it is about twice the size of the old laboratory, Schmidt said.

… Virus-inspired metal art hangs in a hallway, and a sculpture has been commissioned.

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