ATLANTA, G.A. – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) led a tabletop exercise with multiple partners to strengthen diagnostic laboratory surge testing capacity during an emergency response.
The purpose of the exercise was to assess the utility of a newly created CDC Emergency Operations Center (EOC) Laboratory Task Force Guide, and to review the processes for commercial clinical laboratories to provide diagnostic surge testing during a public health emergency.
Four priority areas were identified for further work that include establishing a process for communication with critical partners during a response; helping laboratories to prepare for emerging pathogens through proper use of risk assessments; continuing work to improve how emergency tests are implemented into the healthcare system; and better integrating epidemiology and laboratory data before it is reported to CDC.
During previous public health emergencies, including the Zika outbreak in 2016, CDC and public health organizations engaged commercial laboratories to meet the urgent demand for diagnostic tests when public health laboratories reached testing capacity. In response to these events, CDC and the American Clinical Laboratory Association (ACLA) established a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to support coordination between private industry and public health agencies as part of a system-wide response plan to address future public health emergencies.
“Infectious disease outbreaks and other public health emergencies present significant, often unpredictable challenges to the health system, making preparedness essential,” said Jasmine Chaitram, Associate Director of Laboratory Preparedness from CDC’s Division of Laboratory Systems. “The need for additional laboratory diagnostic surge testing capacity during major outbreaks has demonstrated the importance of formal partnerships with commercial laboratories that can help meet testing demands.”
The exercise focused on strengthening response and coordination among public and private sector partners, and local epidemiologists, including early notification procedures, technical assistance, logistical support, safe practices and results reporting.
Leaders from the clinical laboratory industry, who raised concerns about the previous Zika and Ebola outbreaks, praised the tabletop exercise as an important step forward.
“When an outbreak occurs, clinical laboratory diagnostics are on the frontline of emergency response,” said Julie Khani, president of the American Clinical Laboratory Association, the trade association that represents commercial laboratories. “We applaud the CDC for their proactive engagement and for hosting this important exercise, and we look forward to working with them to improve preparedness and response.”
# # #
ACLA is a not-for-profit association representing the nation’s leading clinical and anatomic pathology laboratories, including national, regional, specialty, hospital, ESRD and nursing home laboratories. The clinical laboratory industry employs nearly 295,000 people directly, and generates over 117,000 additional jobs in supplier industries. Clinical laboratories are at the forefront of personalized medicine, driving diagnostic innovation and contributing more than $106 billion to the nation’s economy.