Lab Culture Ep. 10: Public health labs do that?!

Lab Culture Ep. 10: Public health labs do that?! |

Public health laboratories do a great deal of work that impacts the daily lives of everyone in America. Do you know exactly how much they’re doing? The first episode produced by members of the Emerging Leader Program cohort 10 looks at some of the work performed by public health lab scientists.

You can listen to our show via the player embedded below or on iTunes, Stitcher or wherever you get your podcasts. Please be sure to subscribe to Lab Culture so you never miss an episode.


(*indicates ELP cohort 10 member)

Water Quality Testing

Interviewer: *Amanda Hughes, program manager of ambient air quality monitoring, State Hygienic Lab at the University of Iowa

Michael Schueller, assistant director of operations, State Hygienic Lab at the University of Iowa
Nancy Hall, program manager, Environmental Microbiology, State Hygienic Lab at the University of Iowa

Water quality testing at the State Hygienic Lab at the University of Iowa

Alcohol Testing

Interviewer: *Gitika Panicker, microbiologist, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Expert: Laura Bailey, director, Office of Alcohol Testing, Arkansas State Public Health Laboratory

Alcohol testing at the Arkansas State Public Health Laboratory


Influenza Testing

Interviewer: *Shondra Johnson, laboratory information management system administrator, Missouri State Public Health Laboratory

Expert: Jessica Bauer, molecular unit manager, Missouri State Public Health Laboratory

Seasonal influenza testing at the Missouri State Public Health Laboratory



Interviewer: Avi Singh, food lab lead microbiologist, Washington State Public Health Laboratory

Expert: *Denny Russell, bioterrorism coordinator, Washington State Public Health Laboratory


Foodborne Outbreak Linked to Flour

Interviewer: *Rebecca Lindsey, Whole Genome Sequence Project lead, National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)


Heather A. Carleton, bioinformatics team lead, National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Samuel J. Crowe, National Outbreak Reporting System team lead, National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

E. coli outbreak linked to flour (CDC)

Shiga Toxin–Producing E. coli Infections Associated with Flour




The post Lab Culture Ep. 10: Public health labs do that?! appeared first on APHL Lab Blog.

Lab Culture Ep. 8: Leaders for a TB free world

Every year on March 24, APHL recognizes World TB Day, a day to focus on the valuable work of our members and partners. While tuberculosis is often considered a disease of the past, it is resurging and presenting significant new public health challenges including drug resistance. This World TB Day, we are sharing an insightful conversation between two TB laboratory leaders: Dr. Marie-Claire Rowlinson, assistant laboratory director, Bureau of Public Health Laboratories, Florida Department of Health and Dr. Beverly Metchock, team lead, TB Reference Laboratory, CDC Division of Tuberculosis Elimination.

You can listen to our show via the player embedded below or on iTunes, Stitcher or wherever you get your podcasts. Please be sure to subscribe to Lab Culture so you never miss an episode.

Below you will find a complete transcript of this conversation as well as links to more information on TB.

Recorded March 16, 2018

Marie-Claire Rowlinson: Hi, Bev. Good to talk to you today.

Beverly “Bev” Metchock: Hi, how are you?

Marie-Claire: I’m good. So looking forward to having a conversation today. Couple of questions about TB and how you ended up being interested in TB. So maybe I can start and ask you: As a kid, how did you find yourself interested in science? Were you curious about the world around you? Did you always know that you wanted to work in a science related career?

World TB DayBev: Well, that’s an interesting question, and really not that I can remember. I was a good student overall, and I did enjoy biology and chemistry in high school. I certainly didn’t enjoy physics! And when it came time to choose a college major I was very pragmatic. I chose medical technology because I knew I could get a job. So I kind of went into the field very uninformed as to what it would be. But then when I took my first medical micro course as a junior in college, I just fell in love with clinical micro and I knew that’s where I wanted to go. And I was fortunate in my med tech rotation in a tertiary care medical center, micro was the first lab that I rotated through before chemistry and hematology and blood bank. And so I was able to start working in the micro lab on evenings and weekends, and I was offered a position – a full time position – when I graduated so I was very fortunate to find what I wanted to do, to sort of just fall into it. How about you?

Marie-Claire: Kind of similar. I mean, I think I was as a kid was always interested in biology and space and medicine and those kinds of things. But actually it wasn’t until high school that my biology teacher, when I was looking at degree courses to take, told me that she thought I would be a great microbiologist. And I don’t know if she knows what a profound impact that she’d go on to have in my life. I think it also happened to coincide with the film, Outbreak. I don’t know if you remember that. I think I really wanted to be a disease detective, but, sort of like you say, I don’t think I really knew exactly what I was doing when I got into medical microbiology. But I think I always dreamt of having a career in science, and I still have some parts of that dream yet to realize. I think it’s an exciting field to be in.

Marie-Claire: Can you think of a person or an event that inspired or encouraged you to get involved with public health laboratories or TB testing specifically?

Bev: Well, when I was working in the hospital as a medical technologist in the micro laboratory, I actually became interested in hospital acquired infections and antibiotic resistance. Personally what happened is my father had a hospital acquired – post-surgical infection – at the actual hospital where I worked. And then I was fortunate to be able to work – at a different situation – but work with the infection control practitioners and be the microbiologist that was involved in an outbreak of aminoglycoside-resistant Enterobacteriaceae in the neonatal intensive care unit. So I got very interested in hospital acquired infections, hospital epidemiology and antibiotic resistance. And, to be quite honest, I was one of the people who thought people don’t get TB anymore in the United States. So my original career path when I finally did go back to continue my education was in a school of public health because I wanted to get a background in epidemiology and statistics, and I thought that was the path I was going to go. But then when I got my job at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta I had to become an “expert in TB” out of necessity because there was a lot of TB in Atlanta and since then there’s been no going back. I’ve been in and been involved in TB diagnostics since. How about you?

Marie-Claire: Well, I think that’s so fascinating that you say that because I, sort of in a way, have a similar story. So my Ph.D. is in parasitology, so not related to TB at all, but I did do quite a lot of international work when I was doing my Ph.D. I guess I was kind of always interested in tropical medicine or at least diseases that disproportionately affected disadvantaged populations and people who maybe didn’t have access to adequate healthcare including lab testing. But similarly like you, growing up in the UK, TB felt like a disease of the past or from another country. As you said, I think we all know that that’s not the case. And, in fact, in the UK there’s been a real resurgence of the disease in recent years. And when I was thinking about this podcast, doing some research, I saw that there were 10.5 cases per 100,000 population in 2015 (this is in the UK), but this was down from 15.6 per 100,000 in 2011 compared to three cases per 100,000 in the US in 2015. So, I mean, at that time when I was in the UK, I didn’t really think about TB, but now that I know so much about it and realize that it really is a great challenge in clinical diagnostics and in public health.

Bev: Similarly when I was at Grady that was a time when TB was “resurging” in the United States. And so there was a lot of pressure in the micro laboratory to do quicker diagnosis, to implement the newer technology that was available. And I remember in a matter of a few years when we went from just doing culture on solid media to transitioning to the radiometric broth method to incorporation of DNA probes for identification and then nucleic acid amplification for direct specimen testing. And I recall the days when… I remember one particular situation where a physician called and said, “This can’t this can’t be right.” And I said, “What do you mean?” He said, “We only sent the cultures down three days ago and you’re telling us it’s TB.” So the transition from taking weeks to months to just a few days – to be so very involved in that transitioning in such a short period of time and thinking about how long we have been doing things the same way and then all of a sudden there’s like this revolution. It’s a very exciting field to be in.

Marie-Claire: Absolutely. Can you think of any people or mentors who particularly inspired you? I have a couple to mention, for sure.

Bev: Well, like I said, at Grady the medical director of the micro lab, Dr. John McGowan, and then the supervisors in the laboratory, Portia Williams and David Lonsway, they taught me a lot and we’re all very involved together with working out how we were going to handle the situation in the medical center and working with the folks in the Georgia Public Health Laboratory to coordinate testing. Obviously, it was before I was at CDC, but working with the people here at CDC to coordinate testing that was being done here at CDC so we can get results as rapidly as possible. There’s a lot of people that were involved, and one I particularly remember as well was a hospital epidemiologist at the time, Hank Blumberg, who was a very young enthusiastic person who we worked really closely with his team in infection control and hospital epidemiology. How about your folks?

Marie-Claire: Well, I was quite lucky. When I came to the US to do my post-doctoral fellowship at UCLA, I sort of knew that I wanted to go into public health and actually Dr. Ed Desmond really encouraged me whilst I was doing my postdoc to go into public health and mentored me at the California state lab for two weeks. He arranged for me to go for a visit there for two weeks and spend that time with him. And I’m sure as the listeners out there know, Ed Desmond is a pretty renowned TB lab expert, so I was lucky to have him as one of my first mentors and he’s still a mentor to me and we still get to work together quite often. So that’s exciting. And then I suppose… I actually worked at APHL after I did my postdoc and I was in the global health program. So I was doing quite…although it was mostly focused on HIV there was still a big TB component so that was also a big driver for me in terms of public health labs and TB. But when I left APHL and joined Florida Department of Health, I was actually hired by Dr. Max Salfinger, who, again, people may be very familiar with his name, he’s a pretty renowned TB expert as well and has been an incredible mentor to me. And even though he actually moved to National Jewish Health shortly after I joined the Florida Department of Health we still – so this is six years later – we still have bi-weekly TB calls. So that’s made a big impression on me and been a big reason why TB has been a big part of my work. I think I would lastly mention also that the lab here in Florida really is a state of the art lab, always pushing the envelope, being involved in studies, and I think having such a strong lab in Florida and also having such a great collaborative relationship with our TB control program has been instrumental in my work in TB and my interest in TB. And I particularly I love working with Dr. David Ashkin, he’s our TB medical director for the Florida Department of Health, and he’s really inspiring and really dedicated. And actually, he does an amazing job of engaging the lab in the work that the TB control program does. So we really get to hear about the clinical side of TB care and the importance that the lab results have on patient care because sometimes we’re in the lab and we never actually hear about patients, but he really involved us in that and all the other facets of TB control and I find that really fascinating.

Bev: Yeah, I think that’s one of the most enjoyable parts of my job – is interacting with our public health laboratory partners, but state and local TB control practitioners, the TB clinicians… And TB laboratory work, I mean we are so important in the whole team of taking care of a patient and I think in some respects that’s unique in the clinical micro world that we are involved so much in laboratory results. And I think that the clinicians that we deal with understand that and treat us as part of the diagnostic team. So that’s the part I really enjoy of my position here. Being part of a team.

Marie-Claire: Yeah. And that’s the same feeling we have here and even the bench – I know the bench techs really feel a part of that team as well like everybody is involved in that process. So it’s really good.

Marie-Claire: Do you remember what first drew you into TB? Or was it really just being at Grady and being in Atlanta and seeing the resurgence of TB and TB cases?

Bev: I was drawn in out of necessity – to be able to do what needed to be done. But it was an interesting time because technology was changing, we were dealing with a lot of cases and trying to implement new testing, new technology in the laboratory. Like I said earlier, I would have never thought I would end up working with TB, but once I started it was really something I really enjoyed and being involved in that.

Marie-Claire: Yeah, I think once you start working on TB you realize how interesting it is. I think I love it because it’s so interesting for so many reasons. I mean, you think about it being such an ancient disease that you think about history, music, art, literature, I mean it’s steeped in TB references. So I can go back to books that I read when I was younger and be like, “Oh, there was a TB reference in there!” or  “That composer died of TB” or “He was writing this piece of music or painting this painting when he was afflicted with the disease.” So I think for me that’s really interesting. And then from another standpoint the fact that people can be exposed to TB but never develop symptoms or maybe only become symptomatic under certain situations later on. That makes it difficult to diagnose. And now with multidrug resistant TB and extensively drug resistant TB and things like coinfection with HIV, it’s driving more disease and driving morbidity with disease making, I think, accurate and timely diagnosis even more important. So I think all of those challenges for me make it really interesting, and so with this goal of TB Elimination I feel that we’ve got our work cut out for us.

Bev: Yes we do.

Marie-Claire: And I suppose I have to say again, for me being drawn into TB and why I’ve stayed interested in this field as well is that working in that team with these really dedicated people every day – the TB nurses and so forth in all the counties – are just so dedicated.

Bev: Yeah and that’s the thing. You know, if you don’t get outside the lab, you don’t realize that. But the dedication of all the folks who work with patients who have TB. And I think that’s why I enjoy when we have the National TB Controllers conference in the National Laboratory meeting that all those folks get together. It’s such a strong… it’s such a good feeling and a good meeting, and you meet your peers and people you talk to on the phone you meet them in person and everybody’s working on the same team. It is a really rewarding opportunity that I have here to have this job.

Marie-Claire: Absolutely. Can you… Thinking of that kind of thing, can you think of a specific case or situation where you really felt the impact of your work? Or your lab, the impact for you or your lab… the impact that your lab had on a community or a patient. I guess being at CDC even more broadly you have a national impact on TB lab diagnostics.

Bev: Yeah, I don’t want to really mention any specific cases. There are certain cases I can recall from my days at Grady and in certain cases that we’ve been involved with here with laboratory testing at CDC. But I think… we feel that the group here in the reference laboratory, I think we feel the impact all the time. We get phone calls from physicians, phone calls from TB control programs, obviously from the laboratory asking about testing. And once we implemented our molecular detection of drug resistance testing service I think we demonstrated that referral of specimens or isolates worked within the United States and we can get results out in relatively good real time that really impact decision making around particular patients. So whether it’s… somebody is a caregiver in a nursery and we can say fairly reliably it’s not drug resistant TB within a day or two versus letting them know “yes, indeed you have a case that’s drug resistant TB” and we know it’s going to be resistant to these other drugs, that the physicians can make good decisions about how they’re going to treat that patient. And I think how we impacted that kind of decision making. When we started the testing service – when before we started and we were talking to experts about “this is what we’re going to do,” one of the questions I was asked was, “Well, how many specimens do you think you’re going to get?” And I honestly didn’t know. I didn’t know if folks were going to use the service, if they’re going to trust the results or are still going to do the rapid molecular testing and still wait for the traditional growth based drug susceptibility testing. And that has – I think it’s a little bit changed over time – but I think now that’s one of the first things that folks go to and I know for you in Florida, you do the Hain tests and it’s the same. It’s the same type of thing that they get immediate information that either I would think either makes them feel relieved or knowing that now I can make a decision about what I’m going to do next with this patient based on the rapid tests that the laboratories can do.

Marie-Claire: Yeah. Even if it’s just to hold medications while waiting for something right. I think that for turnaround time makes a huge difference. I know you know, but we use the MDDR service a lot and it’s really amazing. And our physicians and providers that are big users of the MDDR really rely heavily on the information that comes from that. It’s a really wonderful service.

Bev: I appreciate that.

Marie-Claire: Yeah, I mean, for us, I feel that being in a state, we sometimes have these cases in situations where we can really feel the impact of our work. And as I’ve said before really being involved as a team with our TB control program. If I think at a community level… the Jacksonville Bureau of Public Health Labs is in the county, Duval County, and we actually had quite a serious TB outbreak. I don’t know if you remember back in 2012.

Bev: Right.

Marie-Claire: It infected the homeless population in Duval County, and so over the last six years the county has really made great strides in this patient population. And one of the ways that the lab has been involved in this effort is, in fact the last two years, our lab has been doing IGRA testing for their shelter card program. The shelter card program is the system to routinely perform testing and assessment for symptoms of TB for Duval County’s homeless clients that are seeking admittance to area shelters. So this has had an important impact on preventing transmission of TB amongst the homeless population, and so for the lab to be a part of that effort has been has been really interesting and really great, and having the opportunity to implement IGRA at our lab and see it have an impact has been really interesting. And then if I think about specific cases, as you said, there are several cases that come along every year that are really interesting, but I always have one that comes to mind because we had a really complicated patient a few years ago that – despite having no risk factors – he had disseminated TB. In the lab we were able to confirm diagnosis. We were able to confirm that it was disseminated TB by confirmation of TB from several body sites including CNS involvement and it actually turned out that strain had an rpoB mutation which was associated with low level resistance to rifampin. And so the TB control program actually ended up treating this case as MDR TB and I think over the course of time the lab received 20-plus specimens on this patient. And so, about a year and a half after that, it was actually amazing, we got to meet that person.

Bev: Oh, wow!

Marie-Claire: Yeah, and hear his survivor’s story. You know, sometimes we actually do get to meet the patients. And that was that was really inspiring for me. And he was successfully treated.

Bev: Well that’s great. So that’s an advantage of you being at the state… that you are closer to the patients than… we’re another step removed from them. So yes, I’ve not had that opportunity. But yeah that sounds like a…

Marie-Claire: Even hearing the survivor stories at the NTCA conferences, I think as you said, makes the job really rewarding because you see that all of the efforts of the lab, of the program, treating physicians and clinicians, everybody that’s a part of that team and helping these patients. So when you actually get to hear the survivors on the stage it’s pretty amazing it’s pretty powerful.

Bev: I absolutely agree. To hear the stories and what they have to go through with taking drugs that have side effects or the stigma of having TB and all those things. It really is. If you didn’t understand. You know, sometimes we have folks in the lab who are doing research or visitors and they don’t really understand the full effects, and that when they hear those stories they really understand it, and it’s inspiring what these patients who have TB go through and it’s great that they’re willing to share their stories.

Marie-Claire: I agree. Well thank you, Bev, it was really great talking to you today!

Bev: Well, thank you, Marie-Claire! I really appreciate the chance to have this conversation.

Marie-Claire: We’ll keep working towards a TB free world.

Bev: We can only hope.


The post Lab Culture Ep. 8: Leaders for a TB free world appeared first on APHL Lab Blog.

APHL: President Trump’s FY 2019 budget request is “disheartening and disappointing”

APHL: President Trump’s FY 2019 budget request is “disheartening and disappointing” |

APHL: President Trump’s FY 2019 budget request is “disheartening and disappointing” |

The Association of Public Health Laboratories (APHL) is very concerned about the decline in federal funding for public health functions such as detection, surveillance and response in the administration’s budget for fiscal year 2019. “It is extremely disheartening and disappointing to see such severe cuts to public health programs at CDC, HRSA, USAID and the Department of State at a time when the services they support are most in need,” said Scott Becker, executive director of APHL. “What is more, these cuts to public health funding come after a historic bipartisan agreement between Congress and the White House to increase federal spending overall for the next two years.”

CDC cuts include:

HRSA cuts include:

Global Health Programs:

  • $1.26 billion cut to Department of State Global Health Programs which includes funding provided to CDC for PEPFAR; and
  • $1.11 billion cut to USAID Global Health Programs.

While the majority of the president’s budget proposal is grim for public health, there were a few areas that are not as dark. APHL was pleased to see that the budget request designates $175 million to CDC to address the growing opioid crisis. Additionally, funding for the Global Disease Detection Program would increase by $51 million and funding for the Public Health Emergency Preparedness program would increase by $4.5 million.

As Scott Becker explained, “The director of the president’s Office of Management and Budget said, ‘the budget is a messaging document.’ In that case, the message to the American people seems to be, ‘Good luck if there is an outbreak or other public health emergency because federal early warning and response programs won’t be there to help you through.’”

APHL will continue work with Congress to assure that funding levels continue at the much-higher amounts provided in previous years. Adequate levels of federal support for state and local laboratory contributions are critical to the nation’s public health security.

The post APHL: President Trump’s FY 2019 budget request is “disheartening and disappointing” appeared first on APHL Lab Blog.

APHL responds to “banned words,” remains focused on CDC’s budget

APHL responds to “banned words,” remains focused on CDC’s budget |

By Scott J. Becker, executive director, APHL

Recent news concerning limits on language permissible in CDC budgetary communications has drawn considerable attention in the media. As a longstanding partner of CDC, APHL shares its commitment to science-based work to protect the public’s health and improve its health status. We are heartened by CDC Director Fitzgerald’s statement that CDC remains committed to evidence-based work described using all appropriate language, and we are confident that CDC will continue to serve all communities, including those most vulnerable and diverse.

Our primary focus is on ensuring that CDC receives funding that will enable APHL members – local, state and territorial public health laboratories – to do the vital work necessary to detect and respond to public health threats. We feel strongly that, while the words CDC uses in their budget submission are extremely important, the funding levels are at least equally deserving of our attention.

We look forward to working with the Administration and Congress to ensure the best scientific evidence is used in all public health decision making and that all public health professionals are able to use language that appropriately conveys the public health policies and programs that allow for improvement for the health of our nation.

You can also read Scott Becker’s letter to the editor of The Washington Post on this matter.


The post APHL responds to “banned words,” remains focused on CDC’s budget appeared first on APHL Lab Blog.

What you need to know about harmful algal blooms

What you need to know about harmful algal blooms |

By Julianne Murphy, intern, Environmental Health

Warm weather brings nature walks, picnics and sunny days by the shore, but it can also bring unwanted changes to your favorite beach. As the temperature rises, lake and ocean waters can turn from blue to mossy green as algae proliferates in unsightly and potentially harmful algal blooms.

What are harmful algal blooms?

Algae are plant-like organisms of one or more cells that use sunlight to make food. Together they can form colonies called algal blooms in both marine and freshwater systems. Some of these algal blooms are hazardous to health, but not all algal blooms are harmful.

Harmful algal blooms may release toxins at concentrations unsafe to humans and animals and may drastically reduce oxygen available to aquatic life. In fresh water bodies, cyanobacteria, aka “blue-green algae,” can produce dangerous cyanotoxins; in saltwater or brackish water, acid-generating plankton – dinoflagellates and diatoms – can pose a health threat.

Should I be concerned about algal blooms?

Algal blooms can pose a risk for human and animal health. People and animals can become ill through eating, drinking, breathing or having direct skin contact with harmful algal blooms and their toxins. Illnesses vary based on the exposure, toxins and toxin levels. Public health and environmental laboratories test samples from harmful algal blooms to confirm the presence and level of toxicity. Remember, not all algal blooms are harmful.

How are public health officials responding to the increase in algal bloom events?

As climate change events amplify conditions favorable to algal blooms, public health scientists are studying when and where associated illnesses are occurring and how to mitigate the effects of exposure. Their efforts have led to increased laboratory testing and electronic surveillance measures at the state and federal level.

For example, public health and environmental officials in Alaska have been tracking and testing harmful algal blooms. The Alaska Harmful Algal Bloom Network, a collaboration of the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) and regional monitoring programs, analyzes fish kills, unusual animal behaviors and other related phenomenon to provide early warning of developing coastal marine blooms. DHSS scientists analyze human specimens for illnesses associated with harmful algal blooms, such as paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) caused by saxitoxins. PSP is a potentially fatal poisoning with no treatment except supportive care. Samples from symptomatic patients are forwarded to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for confirmatory testing as needed. Testing of asymptomatic individuals may be included in future studies.

In addition, Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) laboratories test marine shellfish meat samples protect public health and safety as well as for regulatory purposes, illness investigations and non-commercial shellfish upon request. This monitoring literally saves lives.

David Verbrugge, chief chemist at the DHSS Division of Public Health, explains the value of Alaska’s testing of harmful algal blooms, “[Laboratory analysis] helps us to understand the nature of PSP exposures: frequency of occurrence, confirmation when lacking meals to test, and the presence or absence of toxins in asymptomatic co-exposed groups. It also allows us to let people know what they are eating before they eat it.”

Is the CDC involved in testing and surveillance for harmful algal blooms?

Yes, only for freshwater. In 2016, CDC created the One Health Harmful Algal Bloom System to provide a voluntary, electronic reporting system for states, federal agencies and their partners. Using the system, which integrates human, animal and environmental health data using a One Health approach, public health departments and their environmental and animal health partners can report bloom events, and human and animal cases of associated illness. Members of the public may report a bloom event or a case of human or animal illness to the One Health system by contacting their local or state health department.

What is the outlook for future testing and surveillance of harmful algal blooms?

As climatic conditions become more favorable to development of harmful algal blooms, state and local health departments will have to ramp up surveillance and testing to protect public health and to preserve local revenue from beaches. These actions will come with a price tag, requiring action at all levels of government. Resources can be leveraged through collaboration to research and expand clinical testing capacity for these persistent health threats.

Learn More:

The post What you need to know about harmful algal blooms appeared first on APHL Lab Blog.

Farewell, Providence! APHL Annual Meeting — Days 3 and 4

Farewell, Providence! APHL Annual Meeting — Days 3 and 4 |

After four days of fascinating speakers, networking with peers and partners from around the world, and enjoying public health jokes that only insiders would understand, the 2017 APHL Annual Meeting came to a close. It was the largest meeting yet with over 700 attendees. We are so thankful to the APHL staff, members, partners, exhibitors and speakers who made this meeting a success! See you all in Pasadena, California in 2018!

Below is a round-up of days 3 and 4.

Day 1 round-up

Day 2 round-up

The post Farewell, Providence! APHL Annual Meeting — Days 3 and 4 appeared first on APHL Lab Blog.

UberOps CEO talks public health in the cloud

UberOps CEO talks public health in the cloud |

In a very short time, Americans have become increasingly familiar with the cloud. Not the white fluffy ones in the sky, but the cloud where much of our day-to-day computing takes place. Even for people who aren’t familiar with the term, they likely are familiar with the concept of accessing internet-based files from anywhere. Photos taken on your smartphone might be automatically uploaded to a cloud-based storage system where you can view or download those photos on your laptop. Just as this technology has become valuable in our daily lives, it has become valuable in public health.

At this year’s APHL Annual Meeting, Eduardo Gonzalez Loumiet, CEO of UberOps, presented on public health in the cloud. We asked Eddie a few questions about the system that he has worked to develop along with APHL informatics and the value that this platform offers public health laboratories and ultimately the American public.

Learn more about AIMS — AIMS Platform: Outpacing Pathogens from the Cloud

In simple terms, what is the AIMS platform? What is the role of UberOps?

AIMS stands for the APHL Informatics Messaging Services Platform. AIMS was developed in 2008 as part of the Public Health Laboratory Interoperability Project (PHLIP) focused on influenza surveillance with the CDC.

AIMS is a secure, cloud based environment that accelerates the implementation of health messaging by providing shared services to aid in the transport, validation, translation and routing of electronic data.

The AIMS Platform has grown to a community of more than 85 trading partners involved in several use cases including ELR, Whole Genome Sequencing, ARLN and NMI. New use cases are being discovered every day.

UberOps is an APHL partner that develops and supports the AIMS Platform. We work on the deep technical aspects of AIMS. Our focus is on continuously securing the environment, trading partner onboarding, and ensuring trading partners have the information and tools to leverage AIMS Platform benefits.

Why should public health labs use a cloud-based system? What are the benefits? 

The benefits of using cloud computing have surpassed perceived risks. AIMS utilizes Amazon Web Services (AWS), the industry leader in Cloud computing. The benefits of cloud computing include:

  1. Security, high availability and reliability
  2. Centralized processing and message routing
  3. Real-time monitoring and audit systems
  4. Reduced message transport complexity
  5. Reduced data translation and transformation complexity
  6. Reduced development and support costs
  7. Flexible capacity infrastructure
  8. FISMA Moderate compliant applications
  9. FedRAMP compliant environment via the cloud provider
  10. Commitment to innovation and the future

Are public health laboratories the only labs using AIMS?

UberOps CEO talks public health in the cloud |

AIMS was built to serve public health laboratories. Over the last 18-24 months the AIMS infrastructure has expanded capability to allow public health agencies and a select group of private laboratories to securely exchange data as well. We have also seen an increase in cross-jurisdictional ELR data exchange between agencies. AIMS has also been used to host other non-profit data, such as STEVE 2.0, which focuses on exchanging birth and death records between states. And AIMS is being used to process data for the first time in the cloud through virtual workstations for the whole genome sequencing project. We are excited for the emerging possibilities!

Is it secure? How do I know my information wont be stolen or misused?

The top priority for APHL and UberOps is a secure and compliant AIMS Platform. Stringent healthcare laws and regulations across jurisdictions are monitored on a regular basis, and revisited on a regular basis. The AIMS Platform is FISMA Moderate compliant, which requires a once per year third-party audit. In addition to the audit, the AIMS infrastructure is required to pass firewall penetration testing.

Each member of the AIMS Platform team attends yearly HIPAA privacy and security training. The AIMS dedicated security team uses advanced, real-time monitoring tools to proactively eliminate potential threats.

What does this mean for the public? Are there clear benefits for people in the community?

AIMS is an extension of everything our public labs represent in the United States. The ability to monitor and detect health threats quickly using a shared technology platform is an invaluable asset for the safety of all citizens. Preventing and/or predicting large expected (like influenza) and unexpected (like Zika) public health events is where the AIMS Platform serves our communities.

What does the future hold for AIMS?

APHL, UberOps and AIMS stakeholders are constantly looking to expand the functionality of the AIMS infrastructure. As the evolution of health data continues, we see new opportunities to assist with integrating data and providing a higher quality experience for trading partners, patients and citizens.

Our recent platform growth between public and private collaboration will continue, and we expect to expand AIMS application services (examples: Dashboards, Portals, LIMS), electronic case reporting and much more!


The post UberOps CEO talks public health in the cloud appeared first on APHL Lab Blog.

AIMS Platform: Outpacing Pathogens from the Cloud

AIMS Platform: Outpacing Pathogens from the Cloud |

By Rachel Shepherd, associate specialist, Informatics, APHL

​​In a kindergarten classroom in Des Moines, a small boy begins to shiver uncontrollably. In a nursing home in Phoenix, a pneumonic grandmother fights for her life from a hospital bed. On a crowded metro car in Washington, DC, in the miniscule droplets of saliva from a man’s kind “Hello” to a stranger, it attacks. The flu. It comes every year as the months begin to shift into winter, returning slightly different than before, exploding and thriving, determined to wreak havoc. It descends upon the nation, preys upon us in our most vulnerable moments, and says, “This is my  year.”

In public health, every emerging threat—the flu, E. coli, Legionnaires’ disease, Ebola, Zika—is a race against time. What can scientists learn from these deadly pathogens, and more importantly, how fast? Lives depend on this data, on laboratories’ ability to track patterns, decipher mutations and to share, compare and build upon those findings—crowdsourcing at its finest and most critical.

Only a few years ago, a lab would manually enter its test results and fax them to CDC and other reference centers. Someone would receive the paper transmission and manually re-enter it. The process would take days. In that time, an outbreak could have spread. Lives could have been lost.

Time matters. But thanks to an APHL-CDC initiative, what used to take days can now take minutes. In 2008, public health labs recognized the need to share their data electronically. APHL worked hand in hand with informatics specialists at state labs and CDC to develop what was then known as the Route not Read (RnR) hub. This seemingly simple, but powerful approach sent public health data through a service that read the outside envelope of the electronic message and delivered it to the intended recipient without opening its contents.

Four years later, the increasing complexity and demands for public health data led to the development of the AIMS platform. Now in a cloud-based environment, AIMS has burgeoned over the years. The new environment accelerates the transmission of data and provides shared services, such as message validation translation, to labs and trading partners. Today, more than 85 organizations and institutions exchange data over AIMS, with more than 25 million messages transported to date.

The vital data exchanged on AIMS includes aggregated influenza test results from public health laboratories to CDC, vaccine-preventable disease reports, biological threat data, immunization data exchange among several public health jurisdictions, electronic laboratory reporting between hospitals and their jurisdictions, and whole genome sequencing through the Advanced Molecular Detection initiative. And AIMS is expanding again to offer electronic case reporting to connect laboratories and health agencies with CDC and with other data recipients nationwide.

Since its launch in 2012, the AIMS platform has equipped public health officials to monitor and respond rapidly to health threats, strengthened labs with shared resources and expedited delivery of time-sensitive health information to consumers. As the platform continues to gain traction, its contributions to the nation’s health infrastructure will be tremendous.

The post AIMS Platform: Outpacing Pathogens from the Cloud appeared first on APHL Lab Blog.

10 Ways CDC Gets Ready For Emergencies

Dr. Stephen Redd, Director, Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response
Dr. Stephen Redd, Director, Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response

One of the best parts of my job is the opportunity to learn from a wide range of experiences. We have an obligation to not only respond to emergencies today, but to prepare for tomorrow by learning from the past. Our work extends to households affected by disease, communities ravaged by disasters, and U.S. territories battling new and changing threats. In fact, all over the world – we try to get ahead of, and manage, complex responses that touch many lives through ever changing circumstances. In an ideal world the health in every community would be at a level that would make recovery and reliance easier. The reality is that emergencies happen in all kinds of environments and populations.

The Public Health Preparedness and Response National Snapshot is our annual report that gives us an opportunity to showcase the work that we and our state partners do. The report reminds us that no matter how big the emergency, we need to work together to respond to the best of our ability—with the cards we are dealt.

Here are 10 ways CDC’s Office of Public Health Preparedness and Emergency Response worked to keep people safer in 2016 that can inform our work going forward.

1) Four Responses at Once: An Unprecedented Challenge

CDC experts continue to provide 24/7 monitoring, staffing, resources, and coordination in response to natural disasters, terrorist attacks, and infectious disease threats. In early 2016, CDC managed four public health emergencies at the same time through our Emergency Operations Center :

  • Ebola
  • Flint, Michigan, Water Quality
  • Zika Virus
  • Polio Eradication

See us in action:

2) A Complex Threat: Zika Hits the U.S.

CDC scientists and responders were activated in CDC’s Emergency Operations Center, where they combed through research, developed and distributed diagnostic tests, and provided on-the-ground mosquito control and education to protect people at higher risk for the virus, including pregnant women and infants.

3) Right Resources, Right Place, Right Time

CDC’s Strategic National Stockpile is ready to send critical medical supplies quickly to where they are needed most to save lives. The stockpile is the nation’s largest supply of life-saving pharmaceuticals and medical supplies that can be used in a public health emergency if local supplies run out.

Last year, we helped conduct 18 full-scale exercises and provided training for 2,232 federal and state, local, tribal, and territorial emergency responders to ensure that systems for delivering medicines are functioning well before they are needed in an actual emergency. We continue to work with our federal, state, local, and commercial partners to make sure every step of the medical supply chain – from manufacture to delivery – is coordinated.

4) State and Local Readiness

CDC connects with state and local partners to provide support and guidance, helping every community get ready to handle emergencies like floods, hurricanes, wildfires, or disease outbreaks.

This year, we created a new process to evaluate how well state and local jurisdictions can plan and execute a large-scale response requiring the rapid distribution of critical medicines and supplies. Through this program, we conducted assessments of 487 state and local public health departments. The information from these assessments will be used to help improve the ability to get emergency supplies quickly to those who need them most.

5) Cutting-Edge Science to Find and Stop Disease

To protect lifesaving research, CDC experts in biosafety and biosecurity conducted approximately 200 laboratory inspections and thousands of assessments of those who handle dangerous select agents and toxins like anthrax, plague, and ricin to keep these materials safe, secure, and out of the hands of those who might misuse them.

CDC’s Laboratory Response Network (LRN)l also develops and deploys tests to combat our country’s most pressing infectious and non-infectious health issues, from Ebola to Zika virus to opioid overdose. The network connects over 150 labs to respond quickly to high priority public health emergencies.

6) Protecting Our Most Vulnerable

CDC supports efforts all across the country to help those who may not be able to help themselves when a crisis strikes. Some populations, like children, older adults, and others with functional and access needs may need extra help during and after an emergency.

From planning for the 69 million children who may be in school when disaster strikes to the millions of Americans who need to make sure prescriptions are filled, medical equipment is working, and help arrives even if power is out and roads are blocked, it’s up to us to protect our most vulnerable in emergencies.

7) Emergency Leaders: The Future of Incident Response

When every minute counts, we need people who have the knowledge to step in and take immediate action. Learning and using a common framework like the CDC Incident Management System helps responders “speak the same language” during an event and work more seamlessly together.

CDC experts train leaders from around the world—25 countries in 2016—through an innovative, four-month fellowship based at our Atlanta headquarters. Lessons learned from this course were put to work immediately to head off an outbreak of H5N1 influenza in Cameroon.

8) The Power of Preparedness: National Preparedness Month

Throughout September, CDC and more than 3,000 organizations—national, regional, and local governments, as well as private and public organizations— supported emergency preparedness efforts and encouraged Americans to take action.

The theme for National Preparedness Month 2016 was “The Power of Preparedness.” During our 2016 campaign , we recognized the successes of countries and cities who have seen the direct benefits of being prepared, looked at innovative programs to help children and people with disabilities get ready for emergencies, and provided tips for home and family on making emergency kits.

9) Health Security: How is the U.S. Doing?

As part of the Global Health Security Agenda, teams of international experts travel to countries to report on how well public health systems are working to prevent, detect, and respond to outbreaks. In May, a team made a five-day visit to the U.S. to look at how well we’re doing.

In the final report, the assessment team concluded that, “the U.S. has extensive and effective systems to reduce the risks and impacts of major public health emergencies, and actively participates in the global health security system.” They recognized the high level of scientific expertise within CDC and other federal agencies, and the excellent reporting mechanisms managed by the federal government.

10) Helping YOU Make a Difference

Get a flu shot. Wash your hands. Make a kit. Be careful in winter weather. Prepare for your holidays. Be aware of natural disasters or circulating illnesses that may affect you or those you care about. There are many ways to prepare, and in 2016 we provided the latest science and information to empower every one of us to take action.

Every person needs knowledge to prepare their home, family, and community against disease or disaster before an emergency strikes. Whether it’s how to clean mold from a flooded home, how to wash your hands the right way, or how to use your brain in emergencies, our timely tips and advice put the power of preparedness in your hands. From the hidden dangers of hurricanes to the heartbreaking dangers of flu, there are steps we can all take to stay safe every day as we work toward a healthy and protected future.

For more ways we are helping protect America’s health, check out the new National Preparedness Snapshot.

To find out more about the issues and why this work matters, visit our website.