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CDC Touts Advances in Lab Detection of WMD Threats

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday touted advancements made in local and state laboratories' capacities to identify dangerous biological and chemical materials, the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy reported (see GSN, Sept. 6).

Ali Khan, head of the CDC Public Health Preparedness and Response Office, in provided comments said a new 152-page analysis documents the improvements in preparedness achieved by public health departments and laboratories across the nation. Obstacles remain, though. "These can include an evolving list of health threats to the continuing economic crisis that could impact the ability to protect the health of communities," Khan said (see GSN, Sept. 9).

The report, "Public Health Preparedness: 2011 State-by-State Update on Laboratory Capabilities and Response Readiness Planning," examines response readiness efforts in Chicago, Los Angeles County, New York City, Washington, D.C. and all 50 states.

The CDC report says the majority of metropolitan centers and states had robust laboratory operations, and that a majority of facilities had enhanced their capacities to quickly identify biological agents and to forward the information to the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control.

Scientific institutions within the Laboratory Response Network between 2008 and 2010 kept up their strong testing records in the identification of pathogens, with pass rates typically better than 90 percent, the CDC report says. The system is "an integrated network of state and local public health, federal, military, and international laboratories that can respond to bioterrorism, chemical terrorism and other public health emergencies," according to the federal health agency.

The most sophisticated LRN facilities saw their capacity to quickly find and identify chemical toxins improve by more than two points to 8.9 from 2009 to 2010, the report says.

In a scenario designed to assess laboratories' ability to react to a major event such as the 1995 sarin gas attacks on the Tokyo subway system, in the space of a year the more advanced facilities shortened from 98 hours to 56 hours the time required to analyze 500 samples.

State public health and CDC officials stage yearly technical aid assessments that test plans to take receipt of, organize and disperse medical countermeasures from the Strategic National Stockpile. Test scores for this technical assessment improved on average from 87 during the period of 2007-2008 to 94 in 2009-2010, according to the CDC report.

Specific areas that saw improvement in the technical assessments were the preparation of vaccines and other countermeasures from the stockpile for distribution and cooperation between hospitals and other medical providers (Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy report, Sept. 20).

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GSN ceased publication on July 31, 2014. Its articles and daily issues will remain archived and available on NTI’s website.

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