High Containment Unit

Wageningen Bioveterinary Research is licensed by the Dutch Government to work inside the HCU with viruses that can cause contagious animal diseases. Wageningen Bioveterinary Research is the national reference institute for animal diseases in the Netherlands.

The HCU is specially designed and secured to prevent infectious particles from escaping the building. The HCU is divided in various areas with different levels of safety measures.

In case of suspicion of a viral notifiable disease such as foot-and-mouth disease (FMD), classical swine fever (CSF) and avian influenza (AI) samples taken from the animals are sent to Wageningen Bioveterinary Research for diagnostic analysis. In the HCU research is also carried out to find new and better vaccines against animal diseases.

Most European countries have facilities like this HCU; in the Netherlands the unit in Lelystad is the only one of its kind.

Safety Measures

The HCU is specially designed and secured to prevent infectious particles from escaping the building. We apply several safety rules.

  • Technical measures (negative pressure, decontamination, air filters) to prevent virus escaping.
  • People wear working clothes and shoes provided by Wageningen Bioveterinary Research. The clothing is sterilized afterwards. Before leaving the HCU everyone needs to shower for at least five minutes. During 72 hours after leaving the HCU visiting any poultry production plant or location with animals susceptible to FMD is prohibited.
  • As an extra safety measure within a range of 3 kilometres around the HCU no farms with animals susceptible to FMD are allowed.

Technical measures

The prevention of escaping of the viral particles is secured by primary and secondary restrictions.

Primary containment

We work in safetycabinets that prevent the spreading of virus
by special airflow and filters

Secondairy containment

Because of the airtight construction the HCU is absolutely isolated from its envorinment. Inside the areas are negative pressured; the air pressure is slightly below atmospheric pressure. So in case of an incident virus cannot escape, because air flows from high to low pressure.

Entering and leaving the HCU

You can enter the HCU and bringing material into the HCU via special sluices. Before leaving the HCU special treatment is necessary. All sewage, the ventilated air, laboratory waste, material waste and people need to be decontaminated before contact with the external world is permitted.

Air exhaust

In filter cabinets the virus is removed from the exhausted air by absolute filters.


The waste water is decontaminated by sterilization with steam.

Laboratory and animal waste

The laboratory and animal waste is decontaminated in sterilizers with special gas or with steam.

Safety measures

The many technical provisions necessary for a safe HCU are frequently and thoroughly checked. All important provisions are carried out in duplicate. There is an independent supervision on proper management. The restrictions, the safety rules and the management measures enables us to work safely with viruses that can cause serious animal diseases.

Instructions for visiting the HCU

Enterance of the HCU is only allowed after taking cognizance of a instruction presentation on the safety instructions and after signing a declaration, that states that people will follow the strict safety rules. These include restrictions during 72 hours after leaving the facility: during this time people are is not allowed to visit any any poultry production plants or locations with animals susceptible to FMD. Susceptible to FMD are i.e. cattle, pigs, sheep, goats, deer, elephants and giraffes. These animals can for instance be present in a (children’s) farm, zoo, livestock market and animal facilities.

Please read and/or print our pdf leaflet in English, in German or French with instructions for visitors. You can find these on the Dutch page.