New Lab Matters: Time to welcome the next generation of public health laboratory scientists

New Lab Matters: Time to welcome the next generation of public health laboratory scientists | www.APHLblog.org

The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that 12,000 new laboratory professionals are needed each year to meet consumer demand. At the same time, while automation has eliminated some less-skilled laboratory jobs, the growing sophistication of public health laboratory analyses has generated demand for scientists with highly specialized training. As our feature article shows, laboratories are recruiting new talent for the “hidden profession” by taking a hard look into what they really want, and how they want to work.

Here are just a few of this issue’s highlights:

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Lab Culture: Introducing PKU Life Podcast with Kevin Alexander

Introducing: PKU Life Podcast with Kevin Alexander | www.APHLblog.org

Fifty-five years ago, newborn screening was born. At the time, though, that little heel prick was performed to screen for only one condition: phenylketonuria (PKU). Without early intervention, babies born with PKU faced severe cognitive, behavioral and other neurological disorders. The advent of PKU newborn screening allowed health care providers and families to make critical changes to a baby’s diet to prevent those consequences.

TIntroducing: PKU Life Podcast with Kevin Alexander | www.APHLblog.orgoday, December 3, is PKU Awareness Day. It’s hard to say where newborn screening would be without that first PKU test. And 55 years later, it’s hard to say where newborn screening would be without the families and individuals living with PKU who have shared their stories to convey the value of this simple test. One of those individuals is Kevin Alexander.

Kevin has been a leader in the PKU community simply by sharing his story and his experiences living with PKU. He has spoken at conferences and events around the world, created a video documentary about his life, served as a leader and friend to others living with PKU, and now he shares his voice in a new podcast.

For this PKU Awareness Day, we are sharing Kevin’s podcast, PKU Life Podcast with Kevin Alexander. We are so appreciative of Kevin’s willingness to both share with and listen to those in the newborn screening community. Kevin, thank you for your leadership, friendship and generosity!

Listen here or subscribe wherever you listen to podcasts:

 Links:

PKU Life Podcast with Kevin Alexander – Facebook

PKU Life Podcast with Kevin Alexander – Instagram

PKU Life Podcast with Kevin Alexander – Twitter

APHL’s Newborn Screening Program

APHL blog posts about PKU

PKU Awareness Day

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5 most unexpected and unique partnerships forged through the Zika response

Top 5 most unexpected and unique partnerships forged through the Zika response | www.APHLblog.org

By Kelly Wroblewski, director, infectious disease, APHL

While the US public health system has been through a number of infectious disease responses in the last decade, the Zika response was unique in both its duration and complexity. For more than 20 months (January 22, 2016 – September 29, 2017), CDC’s Emergency Operations Center was activated to respond to the US’s largest Zika virus outbreak. State and local public health departments began their responses as early as November 2015 and continue to respond today. Through the uncertainty, public health built relationships with new partners and found opportunities for unique collaborations with old partners.

APHL explores the journey in detail in our new book, A Complex Virus, A Coordinated Response: Public Health Laboratories Battle Zika. For APHL and public health laboratories, five unique and unexpected partnerships forged during the Zika response proved critical to progress on this journey. Learn about them below:

1. Vector Control

Vector control is, of course, a time-honored, if underappreciated, public health partner; after all, CDC was established in the 1940s in response to malaria. The Zika response reinvigorated those relationships as public health laboratories and vector control programs worked together on the best methods and approaches for vector surveillance (i.e., testing vectors to see if the pathogen is present) and insecticide resistance testing (testing insects to determine which sprays will be most effective). Once local transmission occurred in Florida and Texas, vector control relied on public health laboratory test results to focus mosquito control efforts on the areas where transmission was most likely to occur.

2. Maternal and Child Health and OB/GYNs

While public health laboratories may connect with maternal and child health departments for other types of testing like newborn screening, it is unusual for these groups of public health professionals to work together in response to an emerging infectious disease. Many OB/GYNs treating patients concerned about their risk of Zika infection and exposure were used to working with clinical and commercial laboratories for prenatal testing, but had never ordered a test at a public health lab. Public health labs across the country worked with their maternal and child health counterparts to ensure they had the most up-to -date information on accessing testing, knew how to correctly complete test request forms and could interpret test results to pass along to appropriate healthcare providers.

3. Commercial Laboratories

At public health laboratories, Zika testing represented a massive increase in workload. Beyond demand from patients worried about their exposure, there were multiple new tests to validate, different tests required for different patient populations and often a single specimen from which multiple laboratories needed to conduct multiple tests. In April 2016, commercial laboratories began performing Zika testing, thus distributing some of the specimen volume, taking some of the load off public health labs and offering OB/GYNs access to testing from laboratories with whom they had established relationships.

4. The Zika Coalition (So. Many. Partners.)

This group, led by the March of Dimes, was comprised of more than 70 member organizations committed to the health and wellbeing of US children and families. It was established in response to Congress’ delay in approving the Obama Administration’s emergency request for funding to respond to the Zika crisis in the US. The request was made in in February of 2016 and was not approved by Congress until that September. The Zika Coalition visited congressional offices, wrote letters and testified before the Senate Appropriations Committee advocating for and applying pressure to ensure public health got the funding necessary to respond.

5. CDC, FDA and CMS – Tri-agency Taskforce for Emergency Diagnostics

Although partnerships with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) are neither unique nor unexpected during an infectious disease emergency response, the Zika response did change their nature with the establishment of the Tri-agency Taskforce for Emergency Diagnostics. Throughout the 20 month response, as we learned more about how the Zika virus behaved, APHL worked with these agencies to ensure that laboratories had access to the best possible tests through the emergency use authorization (EUA) process (FDA’s role), guidance on how to use those tests (CDC’s role) and assurance that the tests were being implemented in compliance with quality testing standards (CMS’s role). This taskforce remains intact for future responses.

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Influenza prevention and response requires a One Health approach

Influenza prevention and response requires a One Health approach | www.APHLblog.org

By Jill Sutton, respiratory diseases intern, APHL

Did you know there’s no known influenza A subtype that’s only found in humans? That makes influenza a perfect example of why a One Health approach is critical to disease prevention and response.

One Health is about breaking down the silos between human, animal and environmental health and adapting a synergistic approach for planning and responding to threats. When it comes to influenza, this multi-disciplinary approach can make us better prepared to evaluate, predict and respond to infections in both humans and animals.

Toward the end of last year’s flu season, I decided I wanted to delve deeper into One Health. I registered for my first One Health Academy talk, which covered the 1918 influenza pandemic and ended with a discussion around the adjacent possibilities in 2018. As I learned more about influenza, I realized the flu wasn’t just a disease infecting humans each winter, but rather a year-round burden causing severe disease in animals too. Eight months later, here I am as the respiratory diseases intern at APHL, and I haven’t missed a single One Health talk yet. If there’s one thing I’ve learned thus far in my career in public health, it’s that we can’t control the future, but we can control how we respond to try and shape the future.

What are some implications of influenza for human & animals?

Influenza prevention and response requires a One Health approach | www.APHLblog.orgZoonotic diseases, such as avian influenza, can infect and cause severe disease in both animals and humans. According to the CDC, 60% of known infectious diseases in humans are of animal origin and 75% of new and emerging infectious diseases are spread from animals. Not only does the flu infect humans, influenza also infects a number of other animals (both domesticated and wild) and can cause severe disease.

The primary threat, of course, is the spread of new influenza strains. Influenza pandemics occur when a novel influenza virus emerges in an animal host, changes to the point where it is able to infect humans, and then changes further so it can continue to spread from one person to another.

Once the virus can be transmitted from human to human, a pandemic becomes possible. Global population movement directly influences the spread of influenza pandemics. Looking back to the 1918 influenza pandemic, troop movement during World War I was a major factor in the spread of the virus between continents. Today, international trade and travel has connected every region of the world. Transportation of humans, animal and goods increases the risk of exposure to pathogens. Did you know the influenza virus can remain infectious on surfaces for up to 48 hours? And when airborne, viral particles from a cough or sneeze can remain suspended in the air for up to 30 minutes. That is, if someone who is infected with the flu sneezes while on an elevator or in the bathroom of an airplane and 10 minutes later you enter that elevator or bathroom, you could become infected from those particles.

Aside from humans moving around the globe, animal travel is capable of spreading influenza too. Each year, birds such as ducks, swans and geese migrate between continents. If the any of those birds are infected with avian influenza, the virus can be carried and transmitted. If agricultural operations, domesticated animals or other potential hosts come in contact with infected birds or their feces, new influenza infections can be sustained.

Because we live in a shared environment where global travel is fast, global trade is easy and plenty of opportunities for inter-species transmission of influenza viruses exist, it’s important that experts work collaboratively. Within the veterinary community, areas of knowledge exist that can complement existing areas of knowledge in human health, and vice versa. One Health allows for an easier exchange of information and support between those professional communities.

In addition to the risk of transmission, influenza pandemics can have serious economic impacts. Societies around the world depend on the health of humans, animals and the environment for food, income and health security. Influenza is a major threat to animal agriculture as it can be fatal to chickens, turkeys and pigs. When a new influenza strain emerges, the livelihood for global communities, especially those who are largely dependent on agriculture cultivation, is put at risk. For example, live poultry markets have been identified as significant risk factors for transmission of avian influenza. Because many people who sell poultry at live bird markets are dependent on their operation for income, they are less likely to implement measures of prevention especially if it means closure of the market even temporarily and are at higher risk for exposure to avian influenza. Their poultry can continue to transmit the virus and, if they themselves become infected, they might also transmit the virus to other customers, their families or community members. In these cases, it’s important to include and understand all stakeholders such as farmers, consumers, market operators, supply chain transporters, and human and animal health professionals by taking a One Health approach to implement long term management for control and prevention of avian influenza.

What gaps exist?

The health of our ever-changing world depends on breaking down the walls between animal, human and environmental sectors. To effectively detect, respond to and prevent outbreaks of pandemic potential, epidemiological and laboratory data needs to be shared across sectors.

Integrated human, animal and environmental health/management systems promotes communication and collaboration among human-animal-eco sectors, thus optimizing success. Multi-sector coordination helps address joint issues and opens discussion on what to anticipate, what gaps exists, how to reduce duplication of efforts and enhances risk reduction. We need harmonized human and animal surveillance and research efforts that compliment and build upon one another. This is important because it can help human and animal health professionals identify the determinants that affect disease transmission such as pathogenicity, infectivity, antigenicity and resistance. By capitalizing on existing systems and infrastructure and by investing in capacity building, we can enhance our understanding of circulating viruses within animals, and better predict when and where a spillover could occur. Increasing laboratory and data sharing capacity at both the human and animal levels so that they’re equally capable to diagnose both human and animal influenza can help prevent knowledge gaps and identify where intervention is needed to prevent exposure. Furthermore, this can increase surge capacity so that more laboratories are able to provide the necessary help for when an outbreak occurs.

As we move forward, we must use a One Health approach to prevent multi-disciplinary threats like influenza pandemics. By collaborating between professionals with a range of experience and expertise, we can better address the unanswered questions around the risks for pandemic influenza at human-animal-environmental interface.

 

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A Little Girl and a Deadly Virus

A Little Girl and a Deadly Virus | www.APHLblog.org

By Linette Granen, director, Marketing & Membership, APHL

This story begins as many others. A young lady met a young man, got married and had a baby, whom they adored. They were children of immigrants — her family was from Germany and his from Italy. They began their lives together in the early part of the 20th century in New Orleans, Louisiana. He worked for the New Orleans Park Service — he always had a green thumb and immensely enjoyed working outdoors — while she settled down as a housewife, raising a variety of animals on their small property. One room of their shotgun-house was devoted to a small flock of canaries, and outside they had a plethora of chickens, geese, rabbits and guinea pigs. They shared their double shotgun-house with her brother, a chief in the New Orleans Fire Department. In 1916 they had a baby girl.

A Little Girl and a Deadly Virus | www.APHLblog.orgYes, they were happy — until October 1918, when their only child, nearly three years old, got very sick. She had influenza, although at the time they didn’t know what was wrong. This disease spread quickly through New Orleans, and it became suddenly clear that it was spiraling out of control. On October 7, just one week before the young girl’s untimely death, the New Orleans Board of Health made this then-unknown illness a mandatory reportable disease in order to understand the impact on their population and to track the epidemic’s progress. Two days later, at the recommendation of health officials, the mayor closed all schools, churches, theaters, movie houses and anywhere else people might congregate. Quickly, additional actions were taken to prevent crowding and gathering in the hopes of slowing or stopping the epidemic.

As was mandated, case reports of influenza began to flood the New Orleans Board of Health. On October 12 and 13 alone, there were 4,875 cases reported in the city. At that point, the US Surgeon General instructed the health department to secure additional hospital space for ill military personnel from nearby military installations. Within days, 17 wards of the city’s Charity Hospital were totally dedicated to influenza care. The newly appointed medical advisor, Dr. Gustave Corput, began working with the Red Cross to convert another facility, the Sophie Gumbel building on the Touro-Shakespeare almshouse property, into a 300-bed emergency hospital. At that time, the health department did not employ nurses, so the Red Cross began recruiting nurses and physicians for the emergency facility — some volunteering time and some working part-time. Through funding from the Red Cross and the Public Health Service, the facility was opened and maintained, along with smaller facilities at the Southern Yacht Club on Lake Pontchartrain and a Knights of Columbus hall across the river.

The little girl died on October 15, 1918.

By the end of October, two weeks after the little girl’s death, Tulane University scientists developed and produced a vaccine for local use against a bacteria called Bacillus influenzae (now known as Haemophilus influenzae). Despite being untested, deploying this type of vaccine was worth any risks because of the large number of cases in a city desperate for relief. Laboratories at local hospitals began manufacturing the Tulane vaccine and more than 4,000 city government employees and factory workers were immunized. Medical and nursing students were deployed all over the state: third-year nursing students staffed the emergency hospitals and fourth-year Tulane medical students were appointed as assistant US Public Health Service surgeons. Later that month, it appeared that the tide was beginning to turn, perhaps due to the actions taken by the health department and the Tulane vaccine.

By the spring, the devastating epidemic in New Orleans was finally declared over. Between October 1918 and April 1919, the city experienced over 54,000 cases of influenza and almost 3,500 deaths. The case-fatality rate was 6.5%; only Pittsburgh and Philadelphia had higher death rates.

This story is very personal to me. Not only am I a career public health scientist from New Orleans, that little girl who died on October 15, 1918 was my aunt, Gladys Mary Cucinello. Her parents – my grandparents – later had four sons, one of whom was my father who recently passed away at the age of 95. Born in 1922, he was not alive for the epidemic and never met his sister, but he remembered the heartache my grandmother expressed whenever she talked about that time. The only picture of my Aunt Gladys lives in a place of honor in my house. Such a tiny girl was no match for such a deadly virus.

 

*Much of the historical information about New Orleans during the 1918 influenza pandemic came from the Influenza Encyclopedia.

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Improving newborn sickle cell screening in Africa: ‘We can affect change there just like we did in the US’

Improving newborn sickle cell screening in Africa: ‘We can affect change there just like we did in the US’ | www.APHLblog.org

by Kim Krisberg

In the US, nearly all children born with sickle cell disease survive into adulthood. Across the globe in sub-Saharan Africa, more than half of babies born with the genetic condition don’t survive until their fifth birthdays.

A major reason for the stark disparity is the region’s lack of newborn screening capacity, which allows for early detection and medical intervention. Here in the US, state public health laboratories automatically test babies for a number of genetic and metabolic disorders, including sickle cell disease, as part of their universal newborn screening programs. In sub-Saharan Africa, however, diagnostic and treatment capacity is severely limited, despite the region being home to more than 75% of the disease’s global burden.

Researchers estimate that about 240,000 babies are born with sickle cell disease in sub-Saharan Africa every year, with studies estimating that at least half of such children die before age five (though research finds the under-five mortality rate related to sickle cell disease in the region could be as high as 90%). Globally, the number of people with sickle cell disease is expected to grow by 30% by 2050. Early detection and diagnosis is critical to pushing that child mortality rate down, but to date, no country in sub-Saharan Africa has been able to establish universal newborn screening for any disease, including sickle cell disease.

Sickle cell disease is an inherited red blood cell disorder in which abnormally shaped red blood cells block the adequate flow of blood and oxygen throughout the body. The disease causes a number of adverse and debilitating effects, including anemia, chronic pain, delayed growth, vision problems and more frequent infections. The disease is manageable with access to relatively easy, low-cost interventions, such as folic acid supplementation, vaccines and antibiotics, pain treatment, dietary changes and high fluid intake.

“This is the same disease we screen for here in the US and we know that if we’re able to detect it early enough and provide the right treatment — prophylaxis penicillin and folic acid — it increases their chances of having a normal life enormously,” says Jelili Ojodu, MPH, director of newborn screening and genetics at APHL. “Sickle cell disease doesn’t have to be a death sentence, as it is now in these countries.”

This summer, the Sickle Cell Disease Coalition — APHL is a member of its steering committee — released a new public service announcement directing viewers to a library of global resources on sickle cell disease screening sites and treatment centers in African regions. Also unveiled was an eight-minute documentary from the American Society of Hematology on sickle cell disease newborn screening efforts now underway in Ghana and how families impacted by sickle cell disease can access appropriate care.

For more than a decade, APHL has been working with providers and health officials in sub-Saharan Africa to institute newborn screening for sickle cell disease, providing technical assistance and guidance on testing methodologies, facilitating relationships with laboratory vendors and in some cases, providing hands-on training in validating lab instruments. The goal, Ojodu said, is to help countries take the first steps in the slow scale-up toward universal newborn screening and foster small pilot projects that expand the evidence base and justification for further investment. For example, in Ghana, where sickle cell disease is endemic, APHL partnered with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Sickle Cell Foundation of Ghana to offer technical assistance on a variety of related screening activities, such as needs assessments, genetic counseling and educating providers and parents. The initiative, launched in 2011, began with a survey of community needs, which revealed a gap in the availability of genetic counselors who specialize in sickle cell disease.

In turn, APHL led a 2013 workshop on developing a sickle cell disease counselor training and certification program in Ghana, where participants helped tailor a culturally competent training program specific to the needs of Ghana’s communities. Then in 2015, APHL put together a curriculum and trained the first 15 counselors using the new Genetic Education and Counseling for Sickle Cell Conditions in Ghana. A second training workshop took place in Ghana in the summer of 2016.

In all, Ojodu said, APHL has worked with providers in about a half-dozen African nations to improve sickle cell disease outcomes and newborn screening, including Mali, Kenya, Nigeria, Liberia, Uganda and Tanzania. The work, he said, has shown that newborn sickle cell disease screening and counseling in sub-Saharan Africa is possible — the real sticking point is securing the funding and support to shift from small pilots at hospitals and universities to population-wide screening. (He added that most sickle cell disease screening in sub-Saharan Africa is happening in hospital labs, which he said might be the preferred setting for such newborn screening in the region, as public health agencies there must focus their limited resources on considerable communicable disease threats.)

In Ghana, Ojodu noted, providers use the same technology to screen for sickle cell disease as labs do in the US, which underscores the adaptability of current sickle cell disease screening techniques to a variety of settings.

“If we can do it here, they can do it there,” Ojodu said. “Of course, it will take time and coordinated efforts. It’s really a slow build-up of justifying that No. 1, this saves lives, and No. 2, it can be done.”

Venée Tubman, MD, MMSc, a member of the African Newborn Screening and Early Intervention Consortium, which came out of the American Society of Hematology’s Sickle Cell Disease Working Group on Global Issues, noted that a number of attempts have been made to start newborn screening programs in sub-Saharan African, but also reported that no country has yet succeeded in adopting a universal screening effort. She noted that based on progress in sickle cell disease survival rates in the US — where about 96% of babies with sickle cell disease now survive into adulthood — it’s reasonable to believe that similar improvements can be achieved for children in sub-Saharan Africa with the expansion of early detection and treatment. For instance, in the US, CDC reports that with the introduction of pneumococcal disease vaccination, sickle cell disease related deaths among black children younger than four dropped by 42% between 1999 and 2002.

“That fact that we were able to implement some basic measures and increase survivability pretty dramatically leads me to believe that, yes, most of these deaths are preventable,” said Tubman, an assistant professor in pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine.

She added that the existence of the consortium and the Sickle Cell Disease Coalition speaks to the progress being made to boost early detection and intervention in sub-Saharan Africa.

“Even beginning to strategize and organize around this problem — the infrastructure limitations and the myth and perceptions around sickle cell — is a sign of progress,” Tubman said. “We have a long way to go, but at least we’re on the road.”

Ojodu noted that with the elimination of CDC funding for global newborn screening development, APHL is looking for new funding partners to continue its work abroad.

“This is possible,” he said, referring to improving sickle cell disease survivability rates in sub-Saharan Africa. “We can affect change there just like we did in the US.”

 

*Header photo is a screenshot from the Sickle Cell Disease Coalition’s “Global Sickle Cell Disease Public Service Announcement.”

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APHL and Canadian Public Health Laboratory Network Reaffirm Cross-border Partnership with MOU

APHL and Canadian Public Health Laboratory Network Reaffirm Cross-border Partnership with MOU | www.APHLblog.org

Recently APHL and the Canadian Public Health Laboratory Network (CPHLN) signed a new memorandum of understanding (MOU) that reaffirms their long-standing collaboration and updates the specifics of the MOU. Executive Director Scott Becker, MS, and President Joanne Bartkus, PhD, traveled to the National Microbiology Laboratory (NML) in Winnipeg, MB, to formalize the agreement with the Scientific Director General of the NML and federal co-chair of CPHLN Matthew W. Gilmour, PhD., and current provincial co-chair Paul Van Caeseele, MD.

To hear more about this cross-border partnership, APHL spoke with Theodore Kuschak, PhD, Director, Office of Networks and Resilience Development, National Microbiology Laboratory, and CPHLN secretariat member, and Graham Tipples, PhD, Medical-Scientific Director of the Provincial Public Health Laboratory in Alberta, and past provincial co-chair of CPHLN.

What prompted APHL and CPHLN to establish the first Canada-US MOU in 2004?

Kuschak: I was hired in 2003 to lead the CPHLN and met Scott Becker at a meeting in Toronto a week later. We started talking and came up with the idea for an MOU as a way to formalize the relationship between our two networks. We’ve maintained an MOU from 2004 to this date, with modifications and re-signing in 2008, 2011 and now in 2018.

Actually, our Canadian laboratory organization precedes 2004, going back all the way to 1947 when provincial lab directors created a Technical Advisory Committee to advise the national lab. This group disintegrated in the late 1990s, but resurfaced as the CPHLN after the 9/11 and anthrax attacks. CPHLN member labs collaborate and assist each other, much as public health labs do in the US. All provincial and federal CPHLN labs operate on an equal footing, which makes the network unique.

How does the MOU benefit CPHLN and its member laboratories?

Kuschak: The MOU enables our provincial labs to break through the governmental hierarchy and interact directly with state public health labs. If a provincial lab director has a particular challenge, he or she can be linked through APHL to a state lab director who is dealing with the same issue. Additionally, the MOU makes it easier to obtain approval for travel and for other collaborative activities to support our partnership.

More broadly, the CPHLN-APHL relationship facilitates collaboration on technical issues, interventions like exchange of information, knowledge, and participation in APHL board of directors meetings, annual meetings, and other activities.

CPHLN also benefits from APHL’s work to develop standards, guidelines and tools to strengthen laboratory practice. For instance, we’ve adapted the Core Functions of Public Health Laboratories and worked with APHL to develop the Laboratory Assessment Tool for use by all public health labs.

How does this cross-border laboratory partnership benefit the public’s health?

Kuschak: It makes such a difference to have long-established personal relationships on both sides of the border.  We can pick up the phone and get answers from each other when we need them. As a result, we can respond more quickly to events – and the faster we respond, the sooner our data is available to guide patient care.

Tipples: The ongoing exchange between the two networks also helps to ensure the consistency of lab diagnostics and surveillance in support of patient care and public health action. This is vital considering the number of people who cross the Canada-US border daily.

How does the APHL/CPHLN collaboration support public health emergency preparedness?

Tipples: It’s often said that emerging diseases know no borders. A disease threat in the US is a threat in Canada as well. We participate in PulseNet and other international disease surveillance systems such as influenza and measles. Occasionally, specimens from Canada go to CDC for analysis if we lack the capability, as occurred very early on during the Zika outbreak.

Kuschak: Our US network partners are always ready to help in an emergency. In 2014 we wanted to know what was happening with Ebola testing in Texas. If we’d contacted the state health laboratory, they would have said, “Who are you?” Instead we called Scott [Becker] and he got back to us within a day with the information we needed.

Here’s another example: Many years ago I was at APHL’s old offices in downtown DC when I got a call from Frank Plummer, who was then the director general of our national lab. Frank explained that there had been an issue with a proficiency panel distributed by a diagnostics company to labs in the US and Canada. The panel included a particularly concerning pathogen strain. I asked, and received approval, to share this news with Scott so that he could alert APHL member labs. I then had to get on the phone to tell our provincial labs to handle the panel with appropriate bio safety precautions. Scott set me up with an office and a phone, and offered to get me anything I needed, including lunch. You can’t beat that kind of support!

Do you foresee opportunities to expand the APHL/CPHLN partnership? 

Tipples: Collaboration between the two networks has expanded already. As a member of APHL’s Training and Workforce Development Committee, I’ve had a chance to assist with development of the new DrPH in Public Health Laboratory Science and Practice program, designed to address the shortage of CLIA laboratory directors. I was also able to pull in the NML’s talented lead bioinformatician to contribute to the development of the bioinformatics component of the curriculum.

And as of 2017, there’s a place reserved for a Canadian in APHL’s Emerging Leader Program. We’re excited to have CPHLN represented in this excellent leadership development program.

Kuschak: Our public health agency has asked for more lab involvement in shaping nation-wide health planning. We’ll be collaborating on development of a national strategy for preparedness and response to viral hemorrhagic fevers, development of a public health genomics strategy for Canada, and other work. As we move forward with this and similar initiatives, you can be sure that we’ll be on the phone once again with our American colleagues.

 

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Lab Culture Ep. 16: Informatics, health equity and bat snuggles

Lab Culture Ep. 16: Informatics, health equity and bat snuggles | www.APHLblog.org

Joanne Bartkus, APHL’s board president and director of the Public Health Laboratory at the Minnesota Department of Health, sat down with Scott Becker, our executive director, and Gynene Sullivan, editor of Lab Matters magazine, to talk about priorities for the year. Their conversation ranged from informatics to health equity to… snuggling with a bat?!

Joanne Bartkus, PhD, D(ABMM)
Director, Public Health Laboratory, Minnesota Department of Health

Scott J. Becker, MS
Executive director, Association Public Health Laboratories​
@ScottJBecker

Links:

Lab Matters

Lab Matters — Android app

Lab Matters — iTunes app

APHL Board of Directors

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APHL Receives $7.5 Million Award to Strengthen Newborn Screening Systems

APHL Receives $7.5 Million Award to Strengthen Newborn Screening Systems | www.APHLblog.org

Congratulations to APHL’s Newborn Screening and Genetics team and the NewSTEPs team! Below is the official announcement of the award.

The Association of Public Health Laboratories (APHL) has been awarded a five-year cooperative agreement of up to $7.5 million by the Genetic Services Branch of the US Health and Human Services Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to maintain and manage the Newborn Screening Technical assistance and Evaluation Program (NewSTEPs). A component of the APHL Newborn Screening and Genetics Program, NewSTEPs provides quality improvement initiatives to strengthen newborn screening systems, a data repository, technical assistance and resources to state newborn screening programs and stakeholders.

“We are honored to receive this award,” said Jelili Ojodu, director of APHL’s Newborn Screening and Genetics Program and director of NewSTEPs. “This funding will allow us to continue provide states with robust and comprehensive tools that will allow them to improve the efficiency of the services they provide to newborn babies.”

Named one of the ten greatest public health achievements of the 20th century, newborn screening saves or improves the lives of more than 12,000 babies annually in the US. For babies who test positive for one of the genetic, metabolic, heart or hearing conditions, newborn screening can prevent serious health problems or even death.

NewSTEPs helps facilitate newborn screening initiatives and improve programmatic outcomes to enhance the quality of the newborn screening system through data driven quality improvements.

 

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This project is 100% supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of an award totaling $1,500,000. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor endorsement, by HRSA, HHS or the U.S. Government.

The Association of Public Health Laboratories (APHL) works to strengthen laboratory systems serving the public’s health in the US and globally. APHL’s member laboratories protect the public’s health by monitoring and detecting infectious and foodborne diseases, environmental contaminants, terrorist agents, genetic disorders in newborns and other diverse health threats.

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What a Day! Day 3 of the APHL Annual Meeting

What a Day! Day 3 of the APHL Annual Meeting | www.APHLblog.org

Day 3 of the APHL Annual Meeting was a big one! We had several captivating sessions including this year’s Katherine Kelley Distinguished Lecturer, Maryn McKenna, renowned journalist and author. Listen to today’s episode to hear a few attendees share what they took away from the day.

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.

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