A SECRET LOCATION OUTSIDE WASHINGTON, D.C. — From the outside, it looks like an ordinary commercial warehouse, only much bigger, about the size of two super Walmarts. Inside it’s dark except when motion sensors are triggered. When the lights come on, hundreds of thousands of shrink-wrapped boxes of medicines emerge from the gloom, stacked on shelves nearly five stories high.
This is quite a different kind of warehouse. It and several others across the country are part of the $7 billion Strategic National Stockpile, a government repository of drugs and supplies ready for deployment in a bioterrorism or nuclear attack, or against an infectious disease outbreak — of either a known pathogen or some unknown threat with pandemic potential, which global health officials dub “Disease X” — or other major public health emergency. There are antibiotics, including the powerful medication Ciprofloxacin, vaccines for smallpox and anthrax and antivirals for a deadly influenza pandemic.