CDC readies U.S labs for Ebola diagnostic testing

Aug. 20, 2014

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now has more than 50 disease detectives and other experts battling Ebola on the ground in West Africa—having successfully deployed in less than two weeks the surge of help it promised within 30 days. Also, CDC’s Emergency Operations Center is at its highest level of alert. More than 350 CDC U.S. staff are working on logistics, communications, analytics, management, and other functions to support the response 24/7. CDC is preparing for any possibility, including that a traveler might become ill with Ebola while in the United States. The CDC has been:

  • enhancing surveillance and laboratory testing capacity in states to detect cases;
  • developing guidance and tools for health departments to conduct public health investigations;
  • providing recommendations for healthcare infection control and other measures to prevent disease spread;
  • providing guidance for flight crews, emergency medical units at airports, and Customs and Border Patrol officers about reporting ill travelers to CDC;
  • disseminating up-to-date information to the general public, international travelers, and public health partners.

Currently, the CDC and the Department of Defense have the only U.S. laboratories capable of conducting diagnostic testing to confirm that a patient has Ebola. That is about to change. Additional labs across the United States—part of the Laboratory Response Network (LRN) established by CDC—will soon have the technology to conduct Ebola diagnostic testing on acute-phase specimens. These labs have received detailed guidance on the inactivation and safe handling of samples potentially carrying Ebola virus. Once they demonstrate that they can accurately detect or rule out Ebola in a sample, these labs will be capable of rapidly providing presumptive diagnosis for people suspected of having Ebola. These rapid presumptive results will then be definitively confirmed by laboratories at CDC. Read more about the CDC’s efforts.

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